MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There’s a group that’s promising this year’s winter will be different.

The group is celebrating all things Minnesotans love about cabin culture – like wood and water – and adding in a little heat.

Welcome to the sauna society.

“You can sit on the top bench. It’s a lot hotter than it is down here,” John Pedersen said.

Pedersen is the sauna-meister for Little Box Sauna in downtown Minneapolis.

This winter, next door to the Westminster Presbyterian Church, heat seekers can enjoy a free steam. The space fits up to 10 visitors.

“Well they’re only strangers for a few minutes. Then you usually get to know people, people start talking,” Pederson said.

Pederson is also the founder of 612 Sauna Society.

He found his love for the Nordic tradition on a trip to Finland, and sings the praises of its health benefits.

“The science community is still kind of catching up with what the Finns and people of sweat bathing cultures around the world have been knowing and enjoying for a very long time,” Pederson said.

“We designed this. We wanted there to be a public sauna in the Twin Cities,” Andrea Johnson said.

Architects Andrea Johnson and Molly Reichert designed and built the Little Box Sauna.

“Often times people lose their human connection in the wintertime and we found the sauna was place where people reconnected and community was formed,” Reichert said.

“And as you can see right now, we need it in the winter,” Johnson said.

Inside, temperatures reach 200 degrees.

There’s also a room to change into bathing suits – nudity won’t work downtown.

The sauna experience requires going from hot to cold and back again.

Max Musicant said a cozy fire outside invites more visitors.

“I’m excited to be able to bring and sponsor the sauna coming down here to really promote the vision and the benefits and the joy of sauna-ing,” Musicant.

Sauna sessions are free and open to the public in 90 minute blocks.

It starts Friday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. for three  nights a week through most of December.

For more information visit 612 Sauna Society online.

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