What is the most stereotypical, Canadian experience you can imagine? When I was first started my career, we did a lot of training in the United States, and we heard a lot of them. Igloos, Mounties, dogsleds.
When my friend won a weekend at the Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) in 2010, we discovered living a Canadian stereotype for a night isn’t so bad, albeit a little chilly!
Now in its 16th year, Hôtel de Glace is made entirely from ice and snow, packed into forms, then carved into beautiful, themed rooms. It is only open to guests from January to March and is located about 15km from Quebec City, Quebec. It’s a masterpiece to visit and tour the beautiful, sculpted rooms. It’s an experience to stay though!
The year we stayed, the theme was “Nordic” so the bar, lobby and many rooms reflected this. The hotel also hosts an architecture competition with several Quebec schools, featuring their rooms among those available to rent. At that time, the hotel had only 30 rooms whereas today, there are 44. The hotel also has a bar (complete with ice cups), an ice slide for kids of all ages, a chapel and spa area with hot tubs and saunas (for overnight guests).
Although it was nearly six years ago to this day, I woke up yesterday morning thinking about our overnight experience. Most likely, it’s because the furnace had quit and it was a chilly 6 degrees Celsius (42 Fahrenheit). Only a little warmer than the -4 temperature of our hotel room and my cold nose and cheeks reminded me of waking up in the “Vortex” room.
What you wear to sleep and getting ready are a big ordeal. There was a mandatory training session we had to attend to learn the process. Contrary to what you might expect, layers are not your friend in this situation. If you sweat, you’ll get cold so they recommend a wicking, thermal underwear and that’s all. So, in a hotel of ice, in negative temperatures, I slept in nothing but my Nike Dri-fit shirt and snowmobiling long-johns. I was as snug as a bug in a rug, except my nose was cold. Quinn disobeyed and wore a cotton tank top. She said she was cold and didn’t sleep as well as I did.
They also give you these weird sheets to wrap yourself in before you get into your sleeping bag. All your belongings are left up in a locker room at the hotel, where you also have a “back-up room” in case the Ice Hotel doesn’t turn out to be for you. Before going to bed, they also recommend a visit to the hot tub and sauna to warm your body temperature up. You have to make sure you’re completely dry afterwards though, which was almost impossible because the change room felt like it was a hundred degrees and we were sweating as we were trying to dry off.
Despite the awkward night-time routine, we had a lot of fun. We had several activities included with our package, so we took advantage of going skiing and dogsledding. Since we weren’t far, we had dinner in Quebec City on the second night, I got a wet butt sliding down the Toboggan Slide behind the Chateau Frontenac, then we finished the night off at the Ice Bar back at the hotel.
Since the entire hotel is just fascinating to see, I recommend it to visit if you’re in the Quebec area in the winter.
A few years ago, we had a team meeting in Quebec and we went back. We didn’t stay overnight although we did go dogsledding at that meeting too! Here’s a few from that visit. The hotel held a press junket’s for Disney’s “Frozen”, which was released that year so the slide and surrounding room had a really cool, Frozen theme. It was spectacular. Wear your snow pants if you go, so you can enjoy the slide and stay cozy-warm for a drink at the bar!