Hôtel de Glace, The Ice Hotel

By Baker Maultsby

 

Being constructed out of ice, the Ice Hotel must maintain temperatures that are, well, freezing. To stay firmly on the icy side, guest rooms feature a sub-zero (Fahrenheit) atmosphere. Visitors are typically not accustomed to such conditions, so the slate of suggestions—including extensive recommendations on various layers of clothing to promote a safe and comfortable night’s rest—is essential.

Yes, it’s very cold, but the Ice Hotel promises guests an experience that’s both accommodating and luxurious. Before more on those details, it would be understandable if you are wondering: Just what, exactly, is this ice hotel, and how did it come to be?

The Ice Hotel has been around since 2001. Sort of. That is to say, a version of the hotel is built each December within the Village Vacances Valcartier, a popular recreation destination located a few miles outside Quebec City. Metal frames support a mixture of man-made snow and ice that a crew of roughly 50 workers construct into a fully realized, breathtaking structure ready for a January opening.

While certain components are constant—44 rooms with one, two or three queen-size beds—each year’s edition features original, meticulously crafted sculptures by local artists, based on a unique theme and showcased with dazzling colored lights. Past themes have incorporated circus imagery and Native American history.

There’s an ice chapel, a dramatic destination for a one-of-a-kind wedding, as well as an ice bar, where bartenders prepare delicious and decidedly frosty mixed drinks (one popular creation is the vodka-based Snowmobile Accident with a “tree branch” for stirring). In addition, there is a dance floor. Dancing might seem precarious in a hotel made of ice; staff members rake the floor, producing a powdery, textured surface safe for visitors to put on their boogie shoes—OK, boogie boots.

Before turning in for the night, guests enjoy a sauna and outdoor hot tubs under the stars. Then it’s off to bed in “mummy-style” sleeping bags designed for camping out at, say, the North Pole or Mt. Everest.

Packages range from $495 for a standard room to roughly double that price for the hotel’s premium deluxe suite. Ice Hotel guests are also assigned a room in the Val Cartier Hotel, a more traditional venue, for showering, storing luggage and, if need be, getting some good rest.

It’s not necessary to book a room in the Ice Hotel in order to experience its splendor. Guided tours are available daily and popular for travelers who prefer a more standard indoor climate. Meanwhile, visitors to the Village Vacances Valcartier are treated to a park that’s billed as the “largest winter playground in North America.” There’s plenty of fun to be had: inner tube slides, ice-skating, snow rafting and more.

The Ice Hotel is open each year until the end of March, when temperatures begin to inch above freezing. Reservations for a night’s stay come with a detailed preparation guide. It’s good to plan ahead and plan thoroughly. For more information, visit hoteldeglace-canada.com.

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