This winter, the Hôtel de Glace de Québec will be built from A to Z, entirely in ice. About 30 ice workers will build a hotel from 40,000 tonnes of snow, while 15 ice sculptures will decorate the cold rooms. It is the only hotel in North America made entirely of ice and snow.
Ice hotels are open-air accommodations where guests sleep in igloos, wrapped in fur blankets. But they’re not a difficult adventure – in fact, they’re getting more and more luxurious, paired with hot tubs, fine dining, chilled cocktails, and nightly entertainment.
“Ice hotels are for travelers looking for an immersive way to explore places off the beaten track, but who also prefer not to give up the creature comforts that come with a more traditional luxury travel experience,” said Mark Nowikowski, founder. from the Flying Point travel concierge company. “I think the Ice Hotel is the perfect winter extension of this increasingly popular ‘glamping’ trend,” he says.
The Hôtel de Glace, located in Valcartier, a 20-minute drive from Quebec City, takes full advantage of this freezing Canadian climate. It is not just a hotel, but a winter playground near the Village Vacances Valcartier hotel.
Since its opening in 2001, Quebec entrepreneur Jacques Desbois has brought luxury amenities to this Quebec ice cream establishment, which features a Nordic relaxation area with hot tubs and sauna under the stars.
The hotel has an ice bar with winter-inspired cocktails, an ice chapel, concerts and ice sculpture workshops. As the Hôtel de Glace turns 20 this winter, they welcomed around 2 million visitors and around 70,000 overnight stays.
European ice cream vacations
However, this would not have been possible without Sweden in the lead. The first ice hotel opened in 1989 in the northern region of Swedish Lapland, in a town called Jukkasjärvi.
“All the ice comes from the river and then rises again, like a circle,” explains Luca Roncoroni, creative director of the Icehotel in Sweden. “Knowing that you can try a new idea next year is very liberating; it has an interesting effect on creativity.
This ice hotel opens in mid-December with 44 cozy hotel rooms, 28 cozy chalets, 18 year-round ice art suites and 32 suites designed by ice artists from the Torne River to proximity. There are also nine luxury suites. This year, award-winning designer duo Prince Carl Philip Bernadotte and Oscar Kylberg have designed a sequel. “The aim is to design a room in a unique Swedish environment, on nature’s own terms,” says Kylberg, CEO of Bernadotte & Kylberg.
In Scandinavia and Europe, other luxury hotels followed. The Bjorli Ice Lodge in Dovre-Sunndalsfjella National Park in the Sunndal region of Norway is built entirely of snow and ice. There are also luxury tents, snowmobile tours, and saunas for guests to use. Next door to Bjorli ski resort, this is a luxury ice hotel that offers elegant and well-furnished rooms, open from January to April. Traditional Nordic cuisine, saunas and hot tubs are available nearby.
However, not all nature-related hotels are made of ice. In the Swiss Alps, there is the luxury eco-camp Whitepod, which takes a different approach. Like a five-star hotel, there are private saunas and sleek rooms filled with thick blankets as part of their ‘hi-tech eco camp’. Sleep in eco-friendly geodesic pods, which are heated by pellet stoves in the middle of a snow-capped mountain.
In the Slovenian mountains, Eskimo Village can only be reached by cable car, followed by a snowshoe hike up the mountain. Customers sleep in sheepskin on a bed of snow blocks in an igloo.
In Gstaad, a ski resort in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, the Iglu-Dorg Gstaad has multi-bedroom igloos to spend the night, which offers gourmet fondue served under the full moon, as well as group hikes around the field, as well as igloo-building workshops, detailing how these structures were built.
Ice Resort Experience
Some of the ice hotels are full-fledged resorts, like the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in northern Finland, which combines luxury igloos with adventures such as reindeer safaris, ice fishing, and snowboarding. Among their luxury suites, their Queen suite is an elegant chalet made of Finnish kelo wood and has a sauna and jacuzzi, while the traditional house is a century-old wooden house with a fireplace, built in the traditional style. from Lapland.
There has been a spike in popularity over the past year as more travelers turn to remote places for their well-being.
“Especially since the pandemic, I have found that luxury travelers are increasingly drawn to new and real ways of finding a presence while reconnecting with nature,” Nowikowski said. “Ice hotels provide a unique, elevated way to do this during the winter season and in places that otherwise would not have been suitable for this kind of experience.”
Another option is Experience 365 in Kemi, a small town in northern Finland, which has a SnowCastle Resort open all year round. For those who want to contemplate the Northern Lights at night, their SnowHotel has been built every winter since 1996.
Among the luxury amenities, the Seaview Restaurant Lumihiutale offers an arctic touch of local seafood cuisine and a Finnish sauna with private lounges and stunning sea views. For an ice-free hotel, they have their Seaside Glass Villas, perched on the edge of the Bay of Bothnia, open all year round.
AnnaSofia Mååg, a Swedish artist who worked on the Icehotel in Sweden, explains that making a hotel room entirely out of ice is no easy task. But it is a challenge worth it.
“Creating a suite at the Icehotel is at the same time authentic, extremely difficult, magical and absolutely charming,” says Mååg. “It’s fascinating to see everyone coming together here during the construction period, and the people who come back time and time again to create another Icehotel, year after year.”