Get frosty this winter with a visit to the Hôtel de Glace in Québec. North America’s first ice hotel opened their 2011 season January 7 with a new theme, larger living space, and new location just ten minutes from downtown Québec City.
The 32,000 square foot hotel is made of 15,000 tons of snow, 500 tons of ice and features 19 foot ceilings. The hotel has 32 rooms. Amenities include a spa and sauna, ice cafe, an exhibition room, an ice chapel for weddings, fireplaces (we’re not sure how they function, but they do), an ice slide, and a restaurant.
The Hôtel de Glace is the creation of CEO and founder Jacques Desbois, who began building igloo-like structures for curious guests in 2001 as part of a lifelong fascination with cold weather and the outdoors. The structures drew a crowd, and each year the project grew.
Eventually, Desbois traveled to Sweden to see the original ICEHOTEL, and, until 2005, the Hôtel de Glace partnered with the ICEHOTEL to gain insight into building structures and best practices. The two parted way, Desbois said, because the needs of a North American and Swedish audience, both from a physical (weather) standpoint and a cultrural/aesthetic one, were inherently different. The Hôtel de Glace does not aim to copy the Swedish original, Desbois says, and even if they wanted to … they couldn’t – the climates are simply too different.
What To Expect
As with Sweden’s ICEHOTEL, the Hôtel de Glace is built around a yearly theme, this year honoring biodiversity.
“Guided by the echo of the new site, this artistic performance will offer the visitors various universe[s] and habitats inspired by the cohabitation of all forms of life, stimulating at the same time a new vision of the notion of biodiversity” said Serge Péloquin, the hotel’s artistic director.
Desbios says that this year’s iteration is one of his favorites, particularly the big bar, a statement room that can hold up to 300 at a time. Decorated with magical sculptures of sea life, including whales and fish, he says that being in the bar is like “stepping into another world.”
To help celebrate the theme, the hotel will offer various artistic performances about the beauty of nature.
Built on the site of the city’s former zoo, this year’s iteration is closer to the city than ever before and is also accessible via public transportation. Whether you’re coming for an afternoon tour or an overnight stay, visitors will enjoy upgraded amenities from years past including a ticket booth and an expanded boutique as well a cafe and light snack area.
*Clarification, January 16: Commenters have correctly pointed out that there is another Ice structure in Alaska, Chena Hot Springs. While the attraction does have many similar features, it is technically an Ice Museum, not an Ice Hotel.
An Overnight Stay
Guests are greeted in a private area for overnight visitors and are invited to use facilities like a spa, sauna and bathroom just for hotel guests. Private room access doesn’t begin until 9 PM, as the rooms are open for public tours during the day.
Many overnight packages (which begin around $230, Canadian) also offer a room at the nearby Sheraton for those who simply find sleeping on ice to be too cold. But you won’t really freeze – arctic-style sleeping bags are available for all guests and temperatures never dip below 5 degrees Celsius.
Beth Blair, a travel writer who stayed at the hotel in 2008, says that her visit was one of her more memorable travel experiences. She had a few tips for first-time travelers: “Wear 100% silk long underwear” and “put hand warmers in your boots so you don’t freeze in the morning.” The silk prevents one from getting cold if they sweat during the night, and your shoes, which rest on ice overnight, will be freezing if you don’t add a warming device.
Her favorite part of the trip? “Waking up in complete silence … it’s like nothing I’d ever experienced before.”
The hotel offers overnight accommodations for up to 88 guests per evening. For a true luxury experience, book one of the four specialty suites, each offering a fire place and access to private saunas and hot tubs. Each room is decorated differently and offers unique and custom artwork and carvings made from ice.
Want to brave the cold overnight? The ambient bedroom temperature will remain between -3°C and -5°C, no matter the outside temperature. While the beds have a solid ice base, each is topped with a wooden boxspring and mattress that prevents one from getting wet. Need to use the facilities? There’s a (heated) bathroom nearby. Many guests also opt to simply tour the hotel and visit the bar … or book special overnight packages, many of which come with additonal lodging at the nearby Sheraton Four Points.
Overnight stays begin at $235 (Canadian Dollars) per person and include a welcome cocktail, tour of the hotel, equipment for the night, access to the hot tubs and sauna, a hot morning beverage and breakfast.
Want to check it out for yourself? We’d suggest visiting on January 20, when the hotel will host a grand opening celebration featuring fireworks, music and more.
If you’re in search of a truly innovative experience, book your reservations between the 7th and 20th, as select guests will get to experience the creation process, the moulds, the sculptors, the manufacturing of the hotel’s famous ice glasses and more of our secrets.
The hotel will only be open until March 27, so secure your reservations soon.