Would you ever spend the night in a hotel completely made of ice? A few cities around the world embrace the winter months to build a unique vacation experience for visitors in the form of “Ice Hotels.” Norway, Sweden, Romania and Finland all build their own versions of snow castles and ice resorts. In North America, however, there’s only one place to experience this winter wonderland. That place is the Ice Hotel - or Hôtel de Glace - in Québec City, Québec in Canada.
The History of the Hôtel de Glace Ice Hotel
Jacque Desbois is a french-Canadian man who has always loved snow. He started his first company - La Piste Desbois - in 1996. The company was an ecotourism company and they designed and built interactive igloo villages for people to come and visit, stay in and explore.
This Canadian-based winter company was involved in many cities and festivals including the Québec Winter Carnival and La Fete des Neiges de Montréal (The Snow Party). Jacque was nicknamed Mr. Igloo for his love of this structure and ability to build with snow.
In 1996 Jacque read an article about the Ice Hotel in Sweden. He was inspired by the idea of building an entire hotel of snow and wanted to do the same thing in Quebec. The province is known for its cold winter months and its abundance of snow. Since he was already building igloos, a hotel seemed like his next perfect challenge.
Jacque traveled to Sweden to meet with their ice hotel’s designers and builders before returning to Canada. He then set about finding partners for his new company and getting to work. It took four years of planning, research, and problem solving for it to come to life. In 2001, Quebec City opened up North America’s very first Ice Hotel.
The Location of The Hotel
The very first Hotel De Glace was built at Montmorency Falls before being moved. It was built at the Station Touristique Duchesnay for 9 years and then moved to the old Quebec Zoo location in 2011. The changes in location had to do with space and availability for growing this project.
Materials of the Ice Hotel
Ice and compacted snow are the main building materials of the hotel. Walls, fixtures and fittings are held together with a substance known as “snice” - a combination of rock-solid frozen snow and ice.
The walls are made of a special mechanically produced snow. More than 30,000 tons of snow are created specifically for the construction of this hotel. Normal natural snow is too dry and airy to be used. The snow created is more humid and dense.
To create the blocks and walls, snow is packed onto metal frames and left to settle and harden for a few days. Super packed snow is necessary for stability and the walls of the hotel are stronger than cement by the time they’re finished.
500 tons of ice are used in the hotel. The ice blocks are created specifically to be transparent for light transfer and aesthetics. The water used to make the ice is specially distilled in order to achieve this. If you lick it, your tongue won’t stick!
Construction of the Ice Hotel
It takes about 55 hours to build the ice hotel. Construction begins once the area has temperatures below 0 for a full week - usually in mid to end of December. One team will work on the production of the materials and a second specializes in the sculpting of the buildings and it’s art.
The Hotel has a theme most years to inspire the sculptors to create their artwork. Many of the rooms and suites also have themes to them. The snow art and ice sculptures match these themes. Artists outside of the Ice Hotel team also participate in the season. The Ice Hotel is definitely equal parts hotel and artwork.
The “deck” or floor of the hotel is built first. The floor is 5-feet thick and very strong to support the hotel throughout the season. The molds are then placed with snow packed into them. The molds or frames are fitted with ski bottoms to make removing them easy.
Ice blocks are placed after the snow molds are finished. The walls cap off rooms, create corridors and allow for light to flow from one section of the hotel to another.
At the end of the season, a demolition crew including a wrecking ball knocks it down. Demolition only takes 5 hours.
Features of the Ice Hotels
Although you can actually book a night and sleep at the ice hotel, they also offer many amenities and attractions for daily visitors and guests.
The ice bar, just like the rest of the hotel, is completely made of ice. Even the drinks are served in ice blocks. Surrounding the bar are ice sculptures and snow art.
One of the most enjoyed features of the hotel is an ice slide. You can slide down it in your snowsuit and experience the Ice Hotel in a unique way.
On top of being a hotel and tourist destination made of ice, the hotel also acts as a gallery for snow sculptures and ice carvers. Some sculptures are stand-alone pieces and many are carved into the actual makeup of the hotel. This snow and ice art is part of what makes the Ice Hotel so magical and unique.
Spending the Night at the Ice Hotel
While the beds themselves are made of ice, the hotel provides overnight guests with special sleeping bags to keep guests warm. In fact, the hotel claims to provide guests with the best night’s sleep they’ve had in years. The cool rooms are the perfect temperatures for optimal sleep, the rooms have low humidity and almost 100% oxygen levels so sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can be relieved. The rooms are also pitch black and incredibly quiet because snow acts as a sound dampener.
Each room has access to a warm room to store personal belongings and for them to retreat to if they can’t stand the cold. The hotel does note, however, that if you prepare and dress for the hotel, there’s no reason you should be too cold.
Hotel De Glace - The Quebec Ice Hotel
This hotel is pure creativity and innovation. Inspired by other countries and cultures, it’s everything that building and construction should be. Don’t let the snow get you down and be inspired this winter by the Quebec Hôtel de Glace. What can you build out of snow?