City's Ice Hotel: The Ultimate Winter Experience
by Habeeb Salloum
I had vaguely heard of an
ice hotel in Québec City, but I had not given it much thought until
on a cold February day I found myself in that once capital of French North
America. Now I was serious, I wanted to find out more about that igloo
in the south.
I was sitting near a dejected-looking colleague who had travelled with
me to attend a conference in that city. What is the matter? You
look sad! I asked. The morning before, she looked happy and content.
I didnt sleep. Last night I rented a room in the Ice Hotel
and I froze to death. She looked angry as she continued, I
was so cold that I spent most of the night in the outside heated washrooms,
sitting on a toilet seat. I will never stay again in that hotel.
A few minutes later, I was speaking to a couple who had overnighted in
the same hotel. When I told them what the young lady had said, they looked
shocked, Shes crazy! We loved it. We were very comfortable.
I looked at them amazed. Walking away, I resolved to find out for myself
the attributes of that inn of snow and ice.
next day as our bus doors opened, I saw before me an igloo-like structure.
Pushing aside the curtain which served as a door, we walked through its
front entrance. Looking around, I was mesmerized and amazed. Its lobby
and hallways were adorned with beautiful ice sculptures. All the exquisite
furniture was created from sheer ice and a large unique ice candelabra,
hanging from its 5.4 m (18 ft) ceiling, completed the aura of strangeness.
Am I in a fairytale wonderland? I turned to my colleague.
He smiled, No! Youve just entered into an icy dream.
The inspiration for this unusual ice abode comes from the small Swedish
village of Jukkasjärvi, where an Ice Hotel has been built every winter
for the past ten years. Annually, winter lovers came from all over the
world to Sweden to admire this first ice hotel in history
Jacques Desbois or Mr. lgloo, as he came to be known to some
people, read a story about the Swedish Ice Hotel and he is reported to
have said: If they can do it in Sweden, we can do it here in Québec.
Enthused about beginning a similar project in Canada he travelled to Jukkasjärvi
to meet with the creators of this magical structure. The visit convinced
him that it was feasible to build an ice hotel in Canada.
He looked around for dedicated partners and soon found them in Francis
Léonard and Yvon Guérard. They were instantly fascinated
with the idea and the possibilities of an ice hotel. With enthusiasm,
dynamism and determination, and their appetite for a good challenge, they
went about their task and launched the second ice hotel in the world in
Québec City - the snow capital of Canada.
Ice Hotel Québec-Canada opened its curtains (for doors) during
the winter in 2001, but as happened in the previous year, the ice hotel
is fated for an annual rebirth - to disappear at the beginning of April
as it slowly melts away under the warm spring sun. In 2005, it will be
moving into its fifth year of operation.
construction of the Ice Hotel, one of the most uncommon and complicated
construction projects, takes approximately five weeks. Usually, 12,000
tons of snow and 400 tons of ice were used in the creation of this amazing
ice and snow crystal cathedral. Its total surface of 3,000 sq m
(30,000 sq ft), is more than enough space to accommodate, besides the
guests, a large number of visitors - more than 400 guests for any type
Dressed in Arctic-like clothing I looked around me as I surveyed the lobby
of this commercial igloo. All around was a world of sparkling ice with
walls covered with original artwork and furniture carved out of ice blocks.
What am I doing here? I thought to myself. I was not noted
for being a great lover of the cold.
Observing that I was just looking around, one of the hotel employees,
dressed in a fur parka, warm looking boots and thick mitts, asked: Can
I take you for a tour of the hotel? I nodded my head, Sure!
I want to make sense out of this giant igloo.
Our first stop was at an ice bar. I could not believe my eyes, as I watched
the drinks being served in ice utensils and appetizers on ice plates.
As we walked along, I sipped my drink, thanking God that my gloves were
We moved through hallways edged by pillars of glimmering ice, then walked
into an icy courtyard. Seeing steam rising from a corner, I asked: Whats
this? Steam coming out of the ice! My tour guide smiled, Its
our hot water tub in the ice. You want to try it? I was astounded.
It was February and the temperature was below zero. How do your
guests undress then make it to the tub, I looked on my guide with
disbelief. They run like race horses, he grinned.
worry about the hot bath. Lets see the rooms, the employee
had a smile on his face as he steered me toward one of the rooms. We
always have a full house. All of our guests spend the night in one of
our 32 cosy rooms and theme suites, which can accommodate some 80 persons.
Looking around, I thought of my colleague who had spent the night in the
washrooms. Did she have a point?
Apparently, during the day, guests bide their time in warm places. All
the rooms that we saw were empty with only an ice slab for a bed and a
bedside table sculptured from ice. The guests sleep, tucked in a warm
sleeping bag on the ice bed, which is covered with deer pelts over which
are placed thick foam-rubber slabs.
After exploring the rooms, we toured the remaining parts of the hotel
which included theme suites, two exhibition rooms, a movie theatre, a
magnificent chapel, a large ballroom. functional fireplaces and hot tubs
and a much talked-about Ice Bar.
we stopped in the chapel with its stools of ice. Do people really
get married here? I asked in disbelief. Of course, we are
fully booked and we cannot accommodate anymore. The guide seemed
perplexed that I was surprised that couples would come here to tie the
knot. As I shook his hand and left, I mumbled to myself, I guess
this chapel will cool the couples passionate ardor.
Later as I reflected, I became convinced that for those seeking a distinctive
and unique experience, staying in an abode, destined to disappear every
spring, would truly be Canadas peak winter experience. Already its
unique success story has captured the attention of the media from around
the world and it is well on its way to becoming one of Québec and
Canadas most outstanding winter postcards. As for myself, travelling
every winter to the south to enjoy the rays of the sun. Ill leave
the Ice Hotel for others to experience.
IF YOU GO
Facts About the Ice Hotel
1) The Ice Hotel will be open for its 5th season January 7 to April 3,
2) The location of the ice hotel can change fom year to year. For location
for this season - see its website
3) The price for an overnight
stay at the Ice Hotel is quite expensive - starting at $229. Per night,
but included are an American breakfast, a cocktail, and all the bedding
you need to keep you warm and cozy. The Hotel offers 1 to 3 nights packages
with many extras included. A visit by an adult to the hotel costs $14.
4) The 2005 decor of Ice Hotel will be the cornerstone of this fifth season
- visitors will not believe their eyes!
5) Public visits are welcomed, but there is a small entrance fee. On February
15, 2004, there were 3,300 visitors at the Ice Hotel - the highest single
day total in four years of operation. Since its opening the hotel has
welcomed to the hotel 220,000 persons - 10,500 of them overnight guests.
6) Ice Hotel Québec-Canada, can also be an outstanding venue for
any type of event such as private receptions, press conferences, weddings,
7) The Ice Hotel Québec-Canada is equipped with the latest technical
facilities in order to cater to the needs of all types of events such
as product launches, corporate presentations, press conferences, private
8) Ice Hotel Québec-Canada Inc., in partnership with Icehotel,
Sweden, has great plans for the future with projects for a second Ice
Hotel in Western North America within the next three years.
Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada Inc., 143, route Duchesnay, Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier,
QC G0A 3M0 Canada.
Telephone : (418) 875-4522 or toll-free CAN/USA 1-877-505-0423.
Fax: (418) 875-2833.).
Reservations and special events: firstname.lastname@example.org
and special projects: email@example.com
1-3 courtesy Habeeb Salloum; Photo 4 courtesy Ice Hotel