Continuing dealer inquiries led Aspen Spas to manufacture its first swim spa
By Michelle L. Cramer
In the Aspen Spas retail store, located in St. Louis, Missouri, patrons have always had the option of purchasing a swim spa, but those offered were from other manufacturers.
As of January 2019, Aspen Spas now manufactures its own swim spa under the Aspen brand. The creation of co-owner Sam Bania with collaboration from the Aspen Spas team, the AS-16E/G sprung from repeated inquiries from both U.S. and U.K. dealers for an Aspen manufactured swim spa.
From concept to production, the process has taken nearly a year and required more than coming up with a design and putting it together. Changes had to be made to the Aspen production facility to accommodate swim spa manufacturing. “It’s such a behemoth to move through production, as you can imagine,” Bania says. “It was quite a big decision to get into the swim spa market because it’s one thing to build a spa mold, which is a long process, but we also had to build a new vacuum former. So we had two projects going on.”
The swim spa itself has some unexpected elements, according to Bania. In order to make it more stable and secure for shipping to the company’s U.K. distributors, he designed a fiberglass pan and corners for the spa — instead of a wooden frame — and ribbing along the shell so that it can be put on its side for overseas shipping and crane installed without losing structural integrity of the cabinetry.
Bania also designed the exterior with backyard aesthetics in mind. “A swim spa can have a boxy look in a backyard,” he says. “So we’re trying to make it blend in a little bit better with the environment.” Among those not-so-boxy elements in Bania’s design are a minimized lip for more interior space, priority on safer entry through larger-than-normal interior steps and handrails on both sides of the unit and a wider swim area so “your arms don’t hit the sides if you’re doing the breast stroke.”
The AS-16E/G measures 190.5-by-94.5-by-54 inches. Aspen decided to start the swim spa line with a 16-foot model so there is “enough room for users to kick their feet,” Bania says. He expects that a 13-foot model will be in Aspen’s future, just to satisfy market demand. “But we wanted to start with something that was actually a good swimmer,” he says. “Not just throw something out there. We wanted to look and see what is out there and try and make it better.”
Following the good-better-best model of the industry, Bania says that the AS-16E/G will have a ‘great’ and ‘excellent’ option. The AS16-G ‘great’ option will come with four jets and two pumps in the swimming side of the spa. The high-end AS-16E ‘excellent’ option will have six jets and three pumps for swim current, as well as extra pumps and jets for the therapy side. The AS-16E will have more bells and whistles, too, including Gecko controls that allow a customized swim and hot tub experience with variable and programmable settings.
“You know how on your treadmill or bike you can set it up to give you more high-impact training? This has the same thing,” Bania says. “Each of the three pumps is working two jets, so you can have different sequences or different pressures coming out to give you that varying workout if you want to swim hard for 30 seconds and then back off and back and forth.” The anticipation for the Aspen swim spa was great enough that dealers were placing orders before production commenced, Bania says. “A lot of people were asking us for a swim spa. Whether it be the quality and craftsmanship of what we build and also the performance, I knew we could build something to our standards.”
Aspen Spas Origins
“In the late ’80s, Lee Bania worked for a company that built fiberglass canoes, ABS bass boats and a small line of hot tubs. Motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit, Lee suggested that his sons, Tom and Sam, learn how to build hot tubs. So, Tom and Sam started Aspen Spas in 1991.
Their mother, Pat — who died 10 years ago — is credited
to this day with the success Aspen Spas continues to see. She ran the sales side of the operation and her ability to make any person who walked through the door feel like family is why Aspen Spas flourished into
a brand that now has more than 100 dealers.
These days, Tom runs the manufacturing side of the company and Sam runs the administrative side. They work together to develop fresh ideas for Aspen Spas with a goal of continued growth in the industry.”
sales manager, Aspen Spas