Staying Overnight in Québec’s Ice Hotel

The Ice Hotel is simply magical.

I’d challenged myself to spend a night on ice in Canada’s Ice Hotel, but now that I’m here I’m having second thoughts. Mainly, I’m cold. Really cold. I try to remember what got me here in the first place. Oh, yes — it was the beautiful photos I’d seen years ago of the original Ice Hotel, created in Sweden in 1989. The photos showed smiling men and women in thick parkas, enjoying drinks at the glittering ice bar and lounging in colorfully lighted rooms. It all looked simply magical.

In Your Bucket Because …

  • There are only three ice hotels in the world.
  • Most people have never slept on ice.
  • Good for adventurers, photo buffs

Ice Hotel Like A Fairy Tale Castle

The Ice Hotel glitters and sparkles. (Photo by Melanie Radzicki McManus)

Canada’s Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel in French) is the frosty knock-off  of the original Ice Hotel in Sweden. It debuted in 2001 just north of Québec City, and, like the Swedish original, it is stunningly created anew every year (mainly from compressed snow, actually, not ice). Once the basic form is in place, artists busily attack giant blocks of ice with chain saws and other tools to craft the hotel’s decorative accents: pillars, furniture, sculptures. Artwork is also carved into the hardened-snow walls. Four or five weeks after construction begins, voilà — you’ve got a fairy tale castle.

This year’s hotel contains about three dozen rooms and suites, an ice bar, wedding chapel, dance area and lobby graced with, interestingly, a big slide. Made of ice, of course. The slide was included in one year’s version of the Hôtel de Glace and proved so popular, it’s been recreated ever since.

Hôtel de Glace Is Really N’Ice

But slide aside, the hotel’s rooms, quite simply, are beautiful. Fiber optic artistic lighting plays off of the glittering ice and snow sculptures, creating a magical ambience. And while there are people tromping all over in heavy snowsuits and boots, the place is peaceful and snug, thanks to the super-insulating property of the snow and ice.

Per the recommendation of hotel staff in an earlier “how-to-sleep-in-an-ice-hotel” session I’d attended, I slip into the outdoor hot tub to super-heat my body, dry off well, then head to my digs for the night. First, I step into the thin sleeping bag liner they’d provided us, then crawl into the sleeping bag and pull a knit cap tightly over my head. I lie down and close my eyes, hearing a faint thump, thump, thump emanating from the dance floor, which stays open as long as any guest wishes.

Maybe Next Time

Pouring drinks in the Ice Bar. (Photo by Melanie Radzicki McManus)

I don’t know if it’s the excitement, the hot tub session or the cold, but I toss and turn for hours without being able to drift off to sleep. My nose drips like an icicle. I’d booked an emergency back-up room in the nearby hotel, and visions of its thick, cushy, warm bedding pop into my head and won’t leave. Wriggling out of my sleeping bag, I pull on my clothes and head to the “real” hotel.

Outside the Hôtel de Glace, still glittering prettily at 2:30 a.m., I run into a mother and daughter from New Jersey. They’re also calling it a night. “We were just so cold, we couldn’t take it anymore,” says the daughter. “I even took an Ambien [sleeping pill],” the mother confesses, “but it didn’t help.”

The next morning, I learn an 87-year-old woman holds the record as the oldest person to spend the night (the record is now held by a 91-year-old man). Mad at myself, I resolve to return and spend an entire night there. To bolster my chances of success, I’ll bring a secret weapon: my husband. With a little more body heat inside my sleeping bag, I’m sure I’ll be able to last the night.

Practicalities

  • Pop for the package deal that gets you a back-up room in the affiliated Four Points by Sheraton Québec. It doesn’t cost that much more, and if you do decide to stay there, the rooms are very nice. Plus, a four-course dinner and breakfast are included.
  • Don’t drink a lot before you go to bed. You don’t want to get out of your warm sleeping bag once you’re tucked in for the night!
  • If you only have time for a tour, make it a nighttime one. The hotel doesn’t look anywhere near as stunning in the daylight.
  • The Hôtel de Glace is open from early January through mid-March. For reservations, call 877-505-0423 or see www.hoteldeglace-canada.com.
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