Cooler than Cool- Visiting the Hotel de Glace, Ice Hotel in Quebec
Quebec’s Hotel de Glace, or Ice Hotel, is located just 10 minutes from Quebec City and is the only hotel in North America to be made of ice and snow. Over the past 16 years, the Ice Hotel has welcomed over one million visitors with nearly 50,000 braving a frosty overnight stay. Each year the hotel is newly constructed with over 500 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of man-made snow. Once temperatures are cold enough (usually when the thermometer dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a week straight) it takes crews about 6 weeks of working 24/7 to fully construct the hotel from the ground up. Most years the hotel is open from early January through the end of March, but exact dates vary year to year based on the weather.
Not only is the Ice Hotel completely rebuilt anew every year, the hotel is completely redesigned with a different layout and theme with no two designs alike. The theme for 2016? Rivers, in every iteration. From frozen glacial streams to mysterious underground rivers, the 44 rooms and suites of this year’s Ice Hotel takes visitors on a frozen exploration of the world’s waters.
The common spaces are filled with frosty whimsy that enchants the young and young at heart. My visit started with with a spin down the hotel’s ice slide. Listening to the giggles of glee from those that zoomed down the slide before me, I was surprised to find myself inching slowly down the slide. Glacially slow. Turns out jeans(even with base layer underneath) are not the best apparel for the ice slide, make sure you’ve got some good snow pants on if you want some speed with your slide.There is also a gorgeous ice chapel on site for couples looking to tie the knot in polar style.
A highlight of any visit to the Hotel de Glace is a visit to the Ice Bar, where drinks are served are served in glasses made from (what else?) ice. I recommend getting a cocktail with Neige Ice Cider, a Quebecois specialty liqueur, though the Accident de Ski-doo (featuring spruce beer and topped with a spruce sprig) is a fun choice as well.
Each room is individually designed, with some larger suites even coming with their own fireplace (for ambiance only, as a too warm room could be disastrous). While the bed platforms are constructed of ice, they are topped with a wooden platform, comfortable mattress with a cozy sleeping bag delivered to the room just before bedtime.My time in Quebec was short so I didn’t get a chance to spend the night here, but I would totally give it a shot on my next winter time visit to Quebec.
So how does one actually sleep in an ice hotel, you may ask?
-First, overnight guests are only permitted in their rooms from 9pm to 9am. Prior to that guests are taken through an informational training session for their frosty overnight stay and can take part in activities or warm up in a sauna or hot tub.
-Guests are advised to dress in layers; starting with a moisture wicking base layer, a warm middle layer such as flannel or fleece and topped a good winter coat/snow pants with hats, gloves and scarves as inside temperatures will constantly be around 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
-There are no en suite bathrooms. Plumbing and subarctic temperatures usually don’t do well together, so for logistic purposes bathrooms are located in a separate heated building on site.
-When its time for bed you wiggle your way into a warm liner and mummy-style sleeping bag (everything is covered but your face) with an additional blanket on top (boots are left at the side of your bed for any middle of the night bathroom trips). Turn off the lights and settle in the complete darkness and stillness for what many guests say is the best sleep they’ve ever had.
Good to know
The Hotel de Glace is open daily for tours. You can choose from a wide range of tours from self guided to a behind-the-scenes guided tour. Prices start at $16 CAD for adults, $14 for teens(13-17) and $8 for children(6-12). Children 5 and under are free.
Overnight packages start at $399.50 CAD per person and include a room at Four Points Sheraton Quebec to store your luggage and to shower.
Would you spend a night in an Ice Hotel? Let me know in the comments!