Freezing for the Fun of It – A Night at the Ice Hotel

DSC_7983 (2)We had talked about trying this for years and now we were actually doing it. We lay face to face feeling toasty warm in our -29C rated sleeping bags, grinning like 10-year-olds.

 

 

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The first thing you notice come bedtime at the Ice Hotel is how incredibly quiet it is. The insulating factor of four foot thick walls made of snow cannot be exaggerated. Lying in bed, the only sound we heard was our own breathing as we stared at the frozen puffs of steam that rose between us each time we exhaled.

Contrary to what many think, we were not sleeping on a block of ice. Well, not exactly….

With fifteen years experience in making their guests comfortable, hotel operators know that a cold hard surface is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

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So even though the beds are in fact ice sculptures, there’s a plywood sheet that separates the bed from a very comfortable mattress and pillow.

 

 

DSC_7892Earlier that afternoon we’d arrived at the site located on the former grounds of the Quebec City zoo, fifteen minutes north of downtown. After checking in at the neighboring indoor and aptly-named Celsius pavilion, we dropped our bags off in our assigned locker and then took advantage of the daylight to tour the entire facility.

hotel view

Those expecting something resembling a simple igloo are in for a surprise; the place is huge. In fact, after the fourth and final construction phase is completed in late January, Ice Hotel Quebec contains forty-four guest rooms including seventeen suites, some with fireplace, and even one with private hot tub.

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Ice Chapel

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Ice Bar

Aside from the pavilion, which is a normal modern building with lockers, showers, washrooms, and free coffee, tea and hot chocolate for overnighters, the hotel features an ice chapel, the ice bar complete with disco lights and a dance floor, an indoor ice slide, and an outdoor spa with four hot tubs and a steam sauna.

 

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Dance Floor

Indoor Ice Slide - Whee!

Indoor Ice Slide – Whee!

 

 

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Outdoor Spa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For day visitors guided tours are available seven days a week in English or French every half hour from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm.

tour

On the tour they explain that hotel construction begins in late November when workers bring in snowmaking equipment to lay down a six foot slab of compacted snow. Once they run the wiring for the building’s lighting and electricity in the slab, large steel forms are brought in for more snow to be shaped around, and the above ground structure begins to take shape.

Dragon Sculpture

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Snow and ice sculptors are next in line to work their magic. Using a new theme each year they create the decorative elements that make all common areas and suites such a wonder to behold.

 

 

This year’s theme:  The Human Journey Through Time. Visitors are met inside the main entrance by ice sculptures reminiscent of Dali’s melting clocks, there’s a hand-crafted milk/ice-chandelier, and a creative take on early cave drawings on the walls using coffee as paint.

Clocks

 

Cave drawings chandelier

 

 

Upon completion the hotel contains over 25,000 tons of snow and uses over 800 tons of ice for its sculptures. Our guide told us that the hotel occupancy rate is around 90-95%.

The ice chapel hosts between twenty and thirty weddings each season which starts just after the New Year and ends the last weekend in March. I joked that when not being used for weddings the ice chapel was where guests went to pray they wouldn’t freeze to death in the middle of the night 🙂

All of the larger suites, have unique decorative touches such as snow carvings with lights embedded right into the walls, and tables, chairs and sculptures made of ice.

Sculpted headboard

 

tea ceremony room 1

tea ceremony room 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the sea room

 

 

 

 

Though pretty to look at, the gas fireplaces are there more for show, not for heating. They have quadruple-insulated glass and chimney to ensure the heat is vented outside and not into the rooms. This makes sense when you think about it, otherwise the place would start melting from the inside.

Our guide also shared a few funny wedding anecdotes about couples who make not-so-wise wardrobe decisions. Like the Scottish chap who insisted on wearing his kilt, traditional commando-style, with nothing underneath. Only a few minutes into the ceremony he began crossing his legs…frequently. By the end of the proceedings he was asked how he was doing down there only to cuss that he couldn’t feel a thing below the waist! Hopefully a dip in the hot tub saved his honeymoon.

And ladies, if you’re going to wear that beautiful off-the-shoulder wedding dress, be sure to bring a shawl or cape to keep covered until you’re ready for the photos, because even though the snow does have an insulating factor, the inside temperature stays a touch below freezing at around -5C (25F); not exactly bare shoulder conditions.

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After touring the rooms we headed into town for an early supper, returning in time for our scheduled 7 pm information session at the pavilion. Along with another couple from France we spent the next half hour learning the do’s and don’ts in order to stay comfortable and make the most of our overnight experience.

We learned that humidity is the enemy. Absorbent fabrics like cotton are to be avoided in favor of moisture wicking base layers under polar fleece or nylon shells. The thermal underwear we normally use for cross-country skiing was ideal for pajamas.

A few other tips; keep a spare pair of dry socks in your pocket to bring to the room and change into them just before bed to keep feet warm and dry, and a fifteen minute dip in the hot tub just before bed raises core body temperature bringing a little extra heat with you to fill that sleeping bag.

When the guided tours end at 8:00 pm the overnight areas are roped off, staff prepares the rooms for the night, and day visitor access is limited to the common areas.

Everyone follows the sound of the music and heads to the bar. After the information session we headed there ourselves to enjoy a cocktail served in a glass made of ice as we mingled with other guests.

lounge

We met people from California, Texas, Wisconsin, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, as well as several European countries, and some from as far away as Singapore and New Delhi.

ice bar crowd

 

 

 

 

 

Around 10:30 we went back to the pavilion to take that suggested soak in the hot tub. We picked up towels and bathrobes and after showering and putting on our bathing suits, we made a frantic 50 meter dash to the hot tubs in our bare sandaled feet out into a -27C winter night. It was actually quite invigorating.

The reward; climbing into the hot tub and feeling the rising steam insulate us from the freezing cold night air. The downside? Knowing we’d eventually have to step out of our steamy cocoon and make that scramble back into the pavilion in wet bathrobes.

Safely back indoors we dried off, changed into our sleep clothing and headed to our room for the night. Compared to the suites, our standard room was sparsely decorated, with a bed, a night table made of ice and a candle. For extra lighting there were also LED lights embedded into the platform of the bed, the switch within easy reach.

our room

Despite being properly-dressed for the conditions, a long day spent in below freezing temperatures takes its toll. As we lay there grinning, fatigue set in and it didn’t take long for us to drift off into a deep and peaceful sleep.

We slept surprisingly well. I was warm enough that at one point during the night I unzipped my bag a little to let out some heat. As someone who turns and stretches often during the night, my only complaint was the lack of legroom in the mummy-style bags.

We awoke just before 7:00 feeling well rested and hungry. Jumping out of bed, we put on our outer layer which we were advised to keep warm at the bottom of our sleeping bags. We stepped into our boots and headed over to the pavilion for a hearty breakfast.

We lounged around indoors for a while comparing notes with some of the other guests about how their night had been. Most agreed that it had been surprisingly comfortable.

With at least an hour to spare before our 9:30 check out, we looked out at the brilliant sun climbing over the trees, both thinking that at a very mild -21C, it was a perfect morning for one more dip in the hot tub before leaving.

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With spring now upon us, the hotel closes this weekend for the season and re-opens with an all new theme in early January 2016.

For more details check out their official website here: Ice Hotel Québec

 

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About Norm 2.0

World’s youngest grumpy old man & heart failure wonder boy. Interests: writing, woodworking, photography, travel, tennis, wine, and I know a bit about power tools.
This entry was posted in Reviews, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Freezing for the Fun of It – A Night at the Ice Hotel

  1. joey says:

    I absolutely 100% want to spend a night in an ice hotel! 😀 I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, this would be on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Almost Iowa says:

    Fabulous photography! We have had a winter carnival in Saint Paul for more than a century – but an ice hotel? I don’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sartenada says:

    What a wonderful post. Your photos praised the beauty of this Ice Hotel. I was very interested to see Your photos, because in Finland we have similar, which is called Snow Castle.

    Thank You for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an unusual place to stay. I suppose you didn’t need ice in your drink, seeing as your drink was in the ice. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience! Most definitely not on my list of things to try – but so cool to read about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Harbin, China has a big ice festival with ice castles and ice hotels, etc.

    http://www.icefestivalharbin.com/harbin-ice-festival-tours.html

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jan says:

    Wow – this is in Quebec? I thought you had to go to northern Finland to stay in an ice hotel.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sue Slaght says:

    thanks so much for the tour Norm. I have been reading more and more about this and wondered what it would be like.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Cindi says:

    Fascinating! I’ve always wondered what a visit to an Ice Hotel would be like. Thank you for the first-person experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. afairymind says:

    What an incredible place! Thank you for sharing it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Definitely a bucket list item. How cool (no pun intended) that y’all did this! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Purpleanais says:

    I am not going to be original with that comment but reading this and looking at your photographs made me so jealous! It just looks and sounds kind of…. magical – then again, I love snow and have been deprived of it for years 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  13. susielindau says:

    It looks super COOL! Ha! I’m probably the 15th commenter with that “unique” reply. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the guided tour, Norm. Sounds a very interesting place and one I’ would certainly love to try out (if I could find anybody to go with me, as most of my family do not do cold).
    Now the disco and dance floor look great, but was it slippery when dancing, or did nobody try?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh my gosh!!! Where do I start?! Thoroughly enjoyed this post, from the photos to the descriptions and the detail. I love the way you explain what needed to be done to sleep properly and keep warm (I feel I can prepare myself a little better now).
    Love love love the cave paintings and the theme.
    I can’t wait to go now! What have you done?! LOL!
    How many days did you stay? Did you have to buy a lot of thermal clothing?
    Thanks for this. I have added the hashtag ‘travel’ to my tweet so hopefully it’ll get picked up by travel blogs and specialists 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks, we only stayed there one night but spent a second night in Old Québec. There’s no shortage of accomodations there. The old city is really beautiful and there’s lots to see and do. My recent ice climbing shots were taken at nearby Montmorency Falls. We didn’t need to buy any special gear because we’re pretty well equipped. Thermal long undies are best for the bottom layer. You’ll find a suggested packing list on the hotel website.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. yprior1 says:

    what a friggin cool experience – and looks like you made it in the nick of time for this year – wonderful shots to share – 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Cool indeed 🙂 We were actually there at the end of February but it took me 3 1/2 weeks to sort through the pics and write the post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yprior1 says:

        I bet it took that long! and actually I am glad to hear that right now because I did not realize how long it would take me to go through my Florida pictures – and I only took pictures on certain days so I would not have too many (and so I could have down time without being in camera mode) but it really does take a while and I guess it is a common thing to happen.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Fantastic Norm, I totally envy you, I don’t know I could convince my husband to do that. It also looks beautiful, your photos are wonderful to look at.
    Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  18. FujiXMan says:

    Nice post. I have visited twice and both times, i said i would not pay to freeze, lol. Glad you had a good time and nice photos:)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Robert says:

    Nicely done Norm! Alas, as I’ve been shivering since I hit my 40s some years ago I think I need the Lava Hotel rather than the Ice Hotel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. ledrakenoir says:

    Very well captured – we tried a aimilar hotel in the most northern Finland a couple of years ago – very fascinating… 😀

    Like

  21. Even after the long and cold winter we had here, THIS is going on my bucket list. Actually this just made me create a bucket list. Lovely review and although I would be freezing, I do think it would be well worth the freeze.

    Like

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Yes it was definitely worth it and like I said, it was a lot more comfortable than you might think. If you do make it there, I’m sure you’ll have a blast 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. K. Renae P. says:

    Thank you for sharing! I really loved reading your review. I so want to do this, and I would own that slide.

    I think I’d have to wear a ski mask but I’m game for a night.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. NancyTex says:

    So awesome to share this experience through your words and pictures as, I’m guessing, my intense hatred of the cold will keep me from experiencing it firsthand. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Bernice says:

    What an amazing experience. We saw this or a similar ice hotel on TV. It looked cold but interesting that a structured made out of snow! Thanks for all the pictures and information!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. wccunningham says:

    Wow, this is amazing! Definite bucket list destination.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I’m more of a summer person, but this is about the grooviest thing ever. Great pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I often listen to Stacey Kent singing ‘Ice Hotel’, so it’s nice to see what it actually looks like and to read about your experience, Norm. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Great post and accompanying photos. But, (you knew that was coming) I’ve been cold for months so there is no way I’d have any desire to sleep there. The slide, however, looks like a blast. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. What a cool (no pun intended) and unique experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. joannesisco says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tour. I’ve long been curious about the ice hotel and what a typical night might be like. It sounds like you had a very positive experience – although not one I’m likely to want to try 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  31. reocochran says:

    This would be so interesting but not my ‘cup of tea,’ Norm! I am still sometimes amazed at how many blankets I need to stay warm at night! smiles!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Wow! I’ve been to Quebec City in the winter many times, but never actually went to see it. It is definitely on my bucket list now! A tour at the very least!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. D. Parker says:

    I was born and raised in a small town near Sudbury, I can’t see the appeal of this…although it is cool-looking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Robin says:

    That is so cool (probably in many ways!). Thanks for the tour. I’m going to put this on my (ever increasing) list of places I want to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Ruth says:

    OMG that looks spectacular – but definitely NOT the hotel for me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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