Ready For A Winter Wonderland? Ice Hotels Are Here!

Ready For A Winter Wonderland? Ice Hotels Are Here!

You open your eyes to the soft, diffused light of fiber optics and the beginning of the day. Ice envelops you, some carved into furniture and sculpture, some in gigantic chunks that form the walls, ceiling, and even the floor. Regardless of how lovely the space is, it's time to get moving. After all, the temperature in your room ranges from 17 to 23 degrees Fahrenheit, and you've just spent the night in a mummy bag on a block of ice. The ice hotel experience includes the beauty, the cold, and the swift morning getaway.

Ice hotels are large, luxurious igloos. Their imposing, barrel-shaped constructions are made of solid chunks of ice. Inside, however, ice hotels sparkle with intricate ice furniture, ice bars, and even ice glasses. Colorful lighting transforms the constructions into magnificent snow castles rather than harsh icy shelters. The hotels are constructed near rivers so that employees may collect water, freeze it into ice, then carve the ice into enormous blocks before hauling it into place. Large-capacity ice hotels take roughly five to six weeks to construct. When spring arrives, though, all of the hard work vanishes, and the hotels must wait until winter to rebuild.

Ice hotels are an emerging trend in the world of destination hotels. People no longer choose hotels based solely on their proximity to tourist attractions. With traditional vacations no longer cutting it, hotels have evolved into destinations in their own right. Arctic resorts that used to close for the winter can now attract visitors all year. People describe waking up after a night in an ice hotel as an exhilarating experience. Some even claim it feels like a victory. The original ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, and other ice hotels will be discussed in the next section.

The Icehotel

The ICEHOTEL, the inaugural large-scale, frozen destination hotel, is located on the River Torne, 124 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The company that presently operates ICEHOTEL got its start in summer river tourism, with whitewater rafting and nature hikes. They created the 197-square-foot Arctic Hall as a venue for an art event in 1990. Arctic Hall drew additional visitors to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, and one night, foreign tourists dressed in reindeer skins and sleeping bags opted to spend the night in the igloo. The travelers raved about their exciting night, so ICEHOTEL decided to build a working lodge for the next season.

ICEHOTEL now has one-of-a-kind rooms, a starkly stunning church, and the ABSOLUT ICEBAR, where the bar and glasses are entirely formed of ice. During the day, the hotel is open to tourists who wish to explore the rooms but do not intend to stay the night. However, the ice museum shutters at 6 p.m., and overnight guests take over. They hand over their belongings to a porter, who transports them to a warm storage room. The bathrooms and locker rooms are also heated. Most folks retire to their rooms by 9 p.m. Guests sleep in mummy bags on ice blocks covered in mattresses and reindeer skins, wearing long underwear.

If guests survive the night, hotel personnel will greet them with a cup of hot lingonberry juice. No way; this isn't "Call of the Wild." Ice hotels avoid mishaps by building neighboring heated chalets and lodges for customers who can't get comfy and need a warm bed in the middle of the night. The hotel really invites guests to blend warm and cold rooms, spending their first night in the ICEHOTEL and the rest of their stay in comfort. Plus, a night at the ICEHOTEL doesn't come cheap. Simple rooms start around $169 with today's exchange rates and can go up to $800 for a package that includes an ice sculpture session and airport shuttle.

ICEHOTEL differentiates itself via thrillingly fleeting sculpture created entirely of ice. The hotel invites artists and designers to redesign the lobby, suites, and public spaces each season. An Art and Design Jury selects a group after reviewing candidates' résumé and representations. Their work has ranged from starkly futuristic crystalline halls to Seuss-inspired four-poster beds. The artistic directors and the ICEHOTEL architect oversee technical difficulties, and because the hotel is rebuilt every year, no two designs are ever the same.

Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada

Igloos' elaborate commercial descendants are ice hotels. The modest huts were built by Canadian and Greenland Inuit as temporary winter residences on hunting areas. An skilled Inuit can construct an igloo in as little as one or two hours. A person building an igloo uses a bone or metal snow knife to chop slabs of compact snow from deep drifts. The blocks are huge, measuring around 2 feet by 4 feet and 8 inches thick. The initial row of blocks is laid out in a circle by the builder, who then shaves the top surface to produce a sloping spiral. The layers gradually taper inward until they form a dome with a small ventilation opening.

Other minor architectural elements can be found on igloos. A short passageway runs inside the igloo and stores supplies, a sealskin flap keeps drafts out, and a window fashioned of ice or seal intestine lets light in. There are also pans for burning seal fat and snow beds covered in twigs and furs in igloos. When the Ice Palace debuted at Quebec's Bonhomme, or Winter Carnival, in 1955, it grew less functional and more magical. The pre-Lent festival is the world's third largest, behind Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. It has a massive snow and ice castle with designs ranging from Disney-like turrets to lit onion domes worthy of St. Basil's Cathedral.

With its snowy past, it's only natural for Quebec to have an outstanding ice hotel. Jacques Debois, an ice-structure enthusiast, learned about the Swedish ICEHOTEL in 1996; he had previously made igloos and ice buildings for festivals around Canada but had never considered ice accommodation. He quickly established the Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada in Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, about 30 minutes from Quebec City. The hotel is located on the grounds of the Station Touristique Duchesnay, a snowmobiling, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice skating resort. The hotel is expanding almost every year, and it already boasts 36 rooms and themed suites, an ice chapel, galleries, and a bar. Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada, like its Swedish cousin, offers public visits during the day.