Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Nothing chases away winter cold like soaking in a hot, relaxing hot tub.

Aaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Nothing chases away winter cold like soaking in a hot, relaxing hot tub.

Besides taking the chill out, a hot tub (or spa as many refer to it) is a stress buster and soother of overworked, sore or tired muscles.

"A spa requires no special winter care if you're using it," says Chris Christiansen, technician at Orley's Stoves and Spas in Medford. The body cavity is well insulated to stay warm and quality hot tubs, even soft-sided ones, are built to withstand sub-zero temperatures.

Leave the water in your spa during winter, even if you're not going to be using it. "You'll never get all the water out of the lines and it could freeze and burst the pipes," says Christiansen. Also seals can dry out and cause leakage later. The best way to maintain an unused hot tub is to leave it running and circulating at low heat of about 80 degrees. Clean hot tub filters every two weeks during use and about once a month if not used.

"Winter is a good time to care for your spa cover," says Travis Skabelund, owner of Arctic Spas in Medford. The vinyl material can degrade over time with exposure to sun, chemicals or mildew. Apply a UV protectant and water repellant product to condition and protect it. Next winter, before rains have started, apply a protective stain to any exterior wood surfaces.

"New hot tub owners shouldn't have to go inside the tub for anything," he adds. Controls are all digital on the outside and computers inside control filtration and temperatures automatically.

If the inside lights are too harsh or boring for you, replace them with tiny LED's which change colors and look "very cool" according to Christiansen. In addition to beautiful waterfalls, spas now come equipped with built-in stereo systems and speakers mounted under protective cover with storage for your CDs and tapes. If you still haven't chased the winter blahs away, buy one with an electric pop-up, flat-screen TV.

Some care should be taken with landscaping around hot tubs. "There are a couple of things you don't want to do," according to Mike Minder, landscape designer in Medford. These include using plants with berries or nuts or plants that drop a lot of debris, which can be picked up by your feet and carried into the tub, wreaking havoc on your filtration system. Fallen and rotting fruit from trees near hot tubs draw bugs, especially yellow jacket wasps. A sting from one of them would probably take the relaxation out of your spa experience.

People sometimes put an arbor or screen fence near their hot tub and then put a beautiful climbing rose on it, forgetting the thorny tendrils reaching out to grasp scantily clothed skin. Minder says nandinas are soft and silky to brush against and won't drop their leaves or berries, ornamental grasses are good, and a cold hardy philodendron such as 'Xanadu' will give your hot tub a tropical look.

Give some thought to the walking surface to and from the spa. Whether deck or concrete, it should be a clean surface with a slightly rough finish to prevent slipping with wet, bare feet. Don't forget to leave access to service areas underneath and to the side you enter the hot tub. Don't close these areas in with landscaping or construction so you can't get into them later.

For the ultimate winter spa experience, misters can spray up and over you while you're soaking and as the mist comes down in cold temperature, it can look like snow.

Ahhhhh, with this luxury at home, who needs to go anywhere?