September 25, 2021

Chilling out at the ice hotel: Inside Quebec’s Hotel de Glace

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Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.06.16 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.07.20 AMBy Loren Christie, Canada AM’s Travel Expert From CTV

A few things to note about Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace; it’s the only Ice Hotel in North America, your room offers very few creature comforts (a pillow and medium sized mattress), it’s freezing cold (except for in your sleeping bag) and you are essentially sleeping in a work of art made of ice and snow that is so detailed it will make your jaw drop. If that combination intrigues you then you need to come here and spend the night.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the hotel and tourist attraction. Located on the site of the former Quebec zoo it is only a fifteen minute drive from the downtown core. Some of the zoo’s infrastructure has been incorporated into the experience; the official entrance (where you check in and/or buy your entry ticket) and the Celsius Pavilion, where you can grab something to eat, use the washroom and store your luggage are holdovers from the zoo.

The actual ice hotel is a transient structure; built over a six-week period and open only during the winter months before it is plowed down. This year it closes on March 22. Every year, the design changes, so if you have been before you can always come again and be amazed at what this skilled group of artisans have created. Each year they are inspired by a theme. This year’s theme is space and time and you can see the artistic interpretation of this broad theme in the the 27 rooms and 17 suites, from the Japanese tea ceremony themed suite to one saluting the lunar landing. Other must sees include the chapel, an ice bar and a welcome hall complete with ice slide.

In addition to wandering the rooms and admiring the art, you can snowshoe, enjoy the hot tubs and sauna, which are open all night for those who need to warm up, and grab a drink at the Ice Bar. There is something insanely cool (no pun intended) about chatting with travellers from around the world in a bar that belongs in the movie Frozen… provided Elsa, Anna and Olaf would be inclined to drink shooters out of an ice block, like I was.

If you do spend the night, you are sent very specific instructions on what to wear; light layers of breathable clothes. Not cotton. Any moisture on your body on a night where the temperature dips below minus 30 Celsius is not a good thing. You are also required to attend a briefing on “the night” after you check in. I never knew instructions on getting into a sleeping bag could be so detailed. Once I was in, I never got out again until morning, but not everyone’s bladder may be so accommodating so pay attention!

If you are not game to spend the entire night, definitely swing by for a tour. It’s $17.50 to wander through the hotel and it is totally worth it. Make sure to spring for a drink at the bar; the photo will be an instant Facebook favourite.

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