I arrive at the Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada around 10 a.m., just in time to see brave souls who have spent the night staggering up to the check out desk, located inside one of the heated buildings at the ice hotel resort.
They look a bit tired, yet proud, as they prepare to leave for other parts of Quebec to continue their vacations. One couple is wished “Happy Anniversary” by the clerk, and I am astonished to realize that they actually made a point of coming to the ice hotel to celebrate this special event.
A mother and her three kids — all bundled to the hilt — come into the sales area looking for souvenirs of their adventure. I ask them why they did it. The mom goes on about how they love winter camping and what a great time they had.
The kids, looking desperate for a warm bath and a night in a real bed, just nod their heads. After all, how comfortable can it be sleeping on a bed made of ice? Even one covered in deer fur.
But according to Veronique Cyr, public relations manager for the Ice Hotel, people are very excited to be here and love the challenge of spending a night, or even two, inside a structure made entirely of ice and snow with a temperature that ranges from -3 to -7 C. In the morning they say, albeit through chattering teeth, “We survived a night in the ice hotel.”
Located in the Duchesnay Ecotourism Station (a 30 minute drive from Québec City), the Ice Hotel is hard to picture until you are actually standing in the beautifully carved lobby. On the outside it looks like a giant igloo. But on the inside, this structure — which is made of 11,000 tons of snow and 350 tons of ice — is filled with beautiful artwork and ornate furniture all carved out of the aforementioned materials. Upon entering, I was struck by the elaborate ice candelabra — lighted by fiber optics — hanging in the grand hall.
In the 2003 season (which runs from January to March — don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to plan for next year), the ice hotel has 31 rooms, 10 suites as well as two art galleries, an ice movie theater and the Absolut Ice bar. Cyr says that the goal is to make changes and try new things each year.
A number of upgrades have been added to the Ice Hotel this year including a interior and exterior skating rink, a large hot tub, and, amazingly, a wedding chapel. All of the Québec ice hotel’s features are on par with the original Ice Hotel in Sweden that this one is based on.
On the day I visit, the first wedding of the season is scheduled to take place. Four more weddings are confirmed and 20 other requests to wed here have already been made.
The Chapel is truly lovely with ice benches covered in animal fur, a crystalline desk for signing wedding contracts and an altar for the couple to be joined in cold but wedded bliss. Wedding packages that range in price are available.
The bar is the main hangout for hotel guests. The drink of choice is flavored vodka (provided by hotel sponsor Absolut Vodka) and served in glasses carved out of ice. My husband tries the citrus (which he says is delicious) while I stick to hot chocolate in a fruitless attempt to warm up.
There is a web cam in the bar and the bartender offers to help us capture our image so that we can instantly send it to our loved ones and prove that we are actually here. We readily agree.
There is no food served inside the hotel because any heat would cause the structure to melt. Two wood-burning fire places are encased in glass which is a bit frustrating for those who have the fantasy of warming their extremities by the fire.
If you want to get warm you can always jump in the spa with its hot bubbling water and enjoy a nice long soak. The only drawback is having to get in and out in your bathing suit at temperatures that are below freezing. But those who have tried it assure me that your body temperature stays elevated long enough to dash into the heated trailer that houses a change room and, more importantly, a bathroom.
The bathroom facility is one of the most common questions they get at the Ice Hotel. No, they don’t expect people to sit on the ice toilets. In the first year they provided a Johnny-on-the-spot but this year the heated trailer with his and her washrooms seems luxurious in comparison. Hanging out it in the bathroom is another way to warm up, but, alas, it’s not too exciting.
I feel like ice cubes and I’m wondering how people make it through a night here?
It’s not that difficult, according the tour guide. Once you get inside the special sleeping bags that are provided and your body heat warms it up, it can get so warm that you can actually sweat. Which is why they advise you not to overload on the layers of clothes when getting into bed for the night. Perspiration actually cools you down and then it will be difficult to warm up again.
Speaking of advice, make sure that you don’t wait if you have to go to the bathroom. Why? It takes energy to keep ‘liquid’ warm that could be better expended on heating your body. He also advises drinking water before bed and eating well to supply energy to the body.
For my money, the best place to spend the night in the Quebec Ice Hotel would be the Cellu Boutique Espace Bell Suite. It is the only suite with a television and, as an added bonus, a computer. I think I could survive with those distractions, but in the other rooms I’m sure that I’d spend a lot of time looking at my visible breath and staring at the ceiling, despite the ornate thematic carvings.
Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll be brave and sleep in an ice hotel. But on this visit, I’m enjoying the vicarious thrill of watching the survivors say their good-byes and go off to their next adventures. As for me, I’m proud to say, I survived the tour.
If you go:
- The ice hotel is located in Ste. Catherine-de-la Jacques-Cartier just a half an hour outside of Quebec city.
- There are a variety of sleep in the ice hotel packages available that include meals, winter sports and a second night at either the Duchnesay resort or the Quebec Hilton
- Tours are available daily at Ice Hotel Quebec Canada in both English and French.
For Further Information or to book a stay contact:
Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada Inc
143, route Duchnesnay
Quebec Canada G0A 3M0
Copyright 2004, 2009 by Neilia Sherman. All Rights Reserved. Photos copyright by Linda Aksomitis