Fog hugged the evergreens, the only color in a white world. I shivered. The hotel looked like something the Wicked Witch had made out of snow instead of gingerbread. Could I really sleep in a room made entirely of ice and snow?
I’d already visited Quebec’s Ice Hotel two years earlier, when I’d taken my grandson to Quebec Carnival, so I knew exactly what I was getting into–a chunk of ice covered with a foam mattress covered with a deer hide.
Then, I imagined, there’d be me, a popsicle stuffed in a sleeping bag!
FAQ about the Ice Hotel in Quebec
- The Ice Hotel has been operating since New Year’s Day, 2001.
- The hotel is 5 km north of Quebec City, so I was able to take a taxi there and back at an affordable cost.
- During my stay at the Quebec Ice Hotel there were 36 rooms and suites that could accommodate up to 88 people a night.
- Like other hotels, the rate is set by how “fancy” the room is, ranging from ornate themed ice carved designs to plain snow packed walls.
- The temperature inside the hotel ranges from 25 to 30 degrees.
- The Ice Hotel has electric lighting inside.
- It took 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice to create the hotel in 2008 when I stayed.
- The year I visited 65,000 people toured the Ice Hotel, and about 4,000 spent the night.
Why exactly did I want to sleep at the Ice Hotel anyway? Well, as a winter enthusiast and adventurer, the whole idea drew me like a magnet. If snowmobiling over the Top of the World Highway in the Yukon, at -42 degrees with a wind so strong it felt as if my head would be ripped off and rolled down the white packed trail like a bowling ball was fun, surely a mere sleep at the Ice Hotel would be the proverbial cakewalk. Right?
Here’s a great YouTube video that will take you through the Ice Hotel!
Station touristique Duchesnay, on the shores of Lake St. Joseph in Quebec, was the first Ice Hotel in North America. The first Ice Hotel in the world is situated in the village Jukkasjärvi, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, and there are now a few others in Norway, Romania and Finland.
Every stay at the Ice Hotel begins with fine dining at Auberge Duchesnay, which is in the traditional wood constructed part of the complex–there’s also, I was relieved to find, a large “bunkhouse” area of cots for those who don’t make it all night on their block of ice. Anyway, there are two settings for dinner, with mandatory lessons on how to prepare for your sleepover either before or after you dine.
The lessons were thorough, showing step-by-step how to climb into the sleeping bag and get everything all fastened down properly, right to the drawstring that would tighten the top around your head, leaving only your eyes, nose and mouth sticking out. It looked like our instructor was in a baby bunting bag!
After filling up on chunky soup followed by wild duck appetizer, red snapper main course, and the ultimate dessert, crème br?llé, it was on to the N’Ice Club reception room and courtyard at the Ice Hotel to begin the “real” fun.
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Everything in the Ice Hotel is truly made of ice and snow, from the walls and ceiling, to the beds and other furnishings, even the “glasses,” which are hollowed out little square cubes of ice that hold about as much as a shooter glass.
We bellied–er–thumped with our winter boots–up to the bar and ordered a cocktail. Not one to miss anything, I was soon up dancing the night away to the rock music bouncing off the icy pillars.
I know…it looks more like I’m a zombie stumbling into the party from this photo (right), but I like to dance in my bare feet and that just wasn’t an option!
Meanwhile, the kids and a few young-at-heart winter lovers took turns on the ice slide that shot them out onto the snow-packed dance floor. Since I’m not even overly fond of waterslides, I skipped that one.
Eventually, of course, it was time to get ready for bed. Our instructions had been clear.
- Limit the shooters–after all, who wants to make a run for the bathroom at below-freezing temperatures.
- Get into the open air hot tub provided and get warmed through-and-through.
- Jump into something, race back to your bed, toss off the clothes and dive nude into the sleeping bag.
Well, I’d done the first, and was on to the second. The third sounded iffy at best.
I changed into my bathing suit in the provided area, then made a run for the hot tub that was conveniently not too full of other guests. Snow was falling. Giant big butterflies of snow that drifted down, landed on your hair and nose and shoulders and well, anything that stuck out of the water.
The water wasn’t particularly hot in the tub–maybe all outdoor hot tubs have limits–mine, after all is inside a covered building–but it was at 100 degrees, so warmer than body temperature. I just wished I’d brought a toque with me, since my hair was getting drenched and I doubted that was a good idea.
Soaking up heat in the hot tub, we all laughed and giggled. We talked. Eventually, we all grew quiet and stared at one another. It was time to head off to our individual beds and see what it was really like to sleep at the Ice Hotel.
The mad dash to my bed took forever! While I ran I frosted over, like a snow cone–my clothes were damp–my hair was damp. I looked at the sleeping bag laid out neatly over the deer hide, tossed my coat on the snowy floor, and dived in, clothes and all. So much for instructions!
My teeth chattered while I wiggled out of my clothes, all but my socks, and into my cozy fleece pajamas that I’d laid out, just in case. I pushed my clothes to the foot of long sleeping bag, which luckily was a one-size fits all for adults up to at least seven feet tall from what I could tell. Luckily, I’m just over five feet, so there was lots of empty bag.
I tried, for about five seconds, to tie myself into the hood of the bag, then abandoned that idea too. I actually like to sleep with my head under the covers, so I just wiggled a little further into the bag and pulled in the hood laces loose enough to leave me a nice little air hole.
I was ready to sleep. And sleep I did, all snug and warm right until morning, when one of the hotel attendants had to stick his head in the door and advise me that I had to leave since the hotel would be opening to the public shortly!
This amazing overnight Ice Hotel adventure is number 8 on my Staycation of great places I’ve visited simply because it was just that–amazing! I can honestly say I’ve never had a better night’s sleep, although I’ll admit wiggling back into those damp clothes at the foot of my sleeping bag made me glad there were some change facilities at the main part of the complex, to “freshen up” before calling for that taxi back to Quebec City!
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If you go to the Ice Hotel in Quebec:
The Hotel’s official site and reservations are at: http://www.hoteldeglace-canada.com/