Visiting the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec
Every year the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec is rebuilt with a new design. The hotel and its furniture are entirely made of ice and snow. It takes six weeks and a whole lot of work from a team of talented ice sculptors. The constructions usually begin at the end of November when the temperatures drop to -5°C. The hotel is open to the public from the beginning of January until the end of March. You don’t need to stay in the hotel to be able to see this fantastic work of art. During the day the hotel allows the curious to take a peek in the rooms.
The Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel in North America, but there are others around the world. The most famous, the original Ice Hotel, is located in the north of Sweden. It was first constructed in 1989, in the little village of Jukkasjärvi, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. Since then, more and more ice hotels are being built in the coldest locations in the world. I have always wanted to stay on one, but before I accept this challenge, I thought it would be best to visit one first.
The hotel offers guided tours from 10 AM to 8PM. After the tour, visitors can wander around as they please. They are free to explore all the rooms and to drink at the ice bar.
The hotel has 44 rooms and theme suites, a chapel, and an ice slide. Each room is unique. Some rooms have intricate carvings in the walls, tables and benches made of ice, beautiful ice sculptures, and even a fireplace. The biggest and most expensive room has two giant polar bears guarding the bed. The fireplaces inside the hotel are for decoration only. A real fireplace would raise the temperature too much and melt the whole room.
The temperature of the rooms stays around -5°C. If you wish to spend the night in a bed of ice inside an igloo-like bedroom make sure to bundle up. Guests are instructed about how to make your stay more comfortable. During the day you should dress following the three-layer technique (base layer + middle layer + outer layer). For the night you should wear a clean set of clothes (not the ones you wore during the day). Give your day clothes a chance to dry and put on a fresh pair of socks and a clean wool base layer. It’s not necessary to wear too many clothes to sleep. You will be given a mummy sleeping bag and a fleece lining.
After 8PM the guests have the rooms to themselves. Guests also have access to a nordic style spa with a sauna and heated jacuzzis under the stars. The spa is open all night. That way the guests that are feeling too cold to sleep in their room can find a comfortable heated place.
At the ice bar, the happy visitors who bought the Cocktail Package can enjoy a drink served in an ice glass. I was excited about it but I soon found out that the ice glass is awful to drink on. It’s way too thick. The drinks are pretty expensive. Despite their fancy names, most of them are just juice from a box and vodka. I would rather have a beer!
Before leaving make sure to stop at the sugar shack, cabane à sucre in French, outside the hotel. The Canadian love for maple inspired them to come up with different ways to eat it. The maple taffy is a winter tradition in Québec. The boiling maple sap is poured directly into the snow, then you use a wooden stick to pick it up rolling it around the stick. Now you have a “Snow Pop”.
To get there the hotel offers a shuttle but it’s much cheaper to get there by public transportation. Since I was staying at the Old Québec historic neighbourhood in Quebec City, I took the bus 801 Charlesbourg at the front of the Observatory. On the road, there’s no sign indicating the way to the hotel. I spotted the most friendly looking person on the bus to ask for directions. Luckily he was going to the same direction I was, and as a truly Canadian, he not only showed me the way, he took me there.