Spending a night in a hotel made entirely of ice and snow is an intimidating endeavor. That said, it is definitely one of the ultimate winter bucket list experiences that should be conquered at least once. Though only open seasonally, from Jan. 4 to March 26, the Hôtel de Glace welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
The Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel in North America made completely from ice and snow — 500 tons of ice and 30 thousand tons of snow, to be exact. In addition to 44 rooms and themed suites, the temporary structure includes an ice chapel where people can marry, a large ice slide suitable for all ages, a Nordic area with steaming hot tubs and a sauna under the stars, and the absolute coolest ice bar you’ll ever see.
Each year, once temperatures drop below freezing and stay consistently there for at least a week, nearly 50 people — 30 workers are on the production, and 15 sculptors decorate this unreal creation — begin the six-week-long construction of the ice hotel.
The raw material of the hotel is man-made snow, which is particularly humid and dense, making for an extremely sturdy building material unlike the powdery fluff that falls from the sky.
This year’s theme is “The Northern Perspective,” which showcases the “beauties and mysteries of the North Pole,” according to the hotel’s website. “This year, we're taking a look at the circumpolar world from both an entertaining and a cultural perspective,” explained artistic director Pierre l’Heureux in a recent press release. “This will be an exciting opportunity for visitors to discover different cultures and civilizations, to meet important figures, and to take a thrilling trip to the polar ice pack.” This theme, which also inspired the architectural design of the 2017 Hôtel de Glace, highlights Arctic wildlife and the Pole Star, among other culturally significant exhibits dedicated to Inuit tribes and artifacts.
My favorite rooms had wall carvings of animals ranging from playful walruses, sea lions, and polar bears to stand-alone bison sculptures, depictions of Arctic tribes, and an entire room dedicated to Santa Claus and his toy workshop. Suites had special touches like faux fireplaces and ice furniture.
If you stay in the ice hotel, you can kick off the night with a few cocktails (which come in ice cups) at the lively ice bar, meet your soon-to-be neighbors, and try your hand at ice sculpting. Don’t panic as the night’s festivities draw to an end and you face the prospect of retreating to your icy room — though the hotel and its furniture are made of ice and snow, you will be provided with a few things to keep you warm.
Blocks of ice form the base of the bed followed by a solid wood base and a comfortable mattress. When the time comes, a cozy sleeping bag made for temperatures between 5 F and 22 F, an isolating bed sheet, and a pillow will be delivered to your room. The room temperature stays between 27 F and 23 F no matter what temperature it is outside. If you really can’t relax, you can always escape back to your regular room in the Hôtel Valcartier, which is included in every Hôtel de Glace reservation.
Honestly, once you mentally prepare for the fact that you’ll be staying the night in a room of ice, it’s not too bad. Yes, the air is freezing, but with a little candle by your bedside and a heavy duty sleeping bag, it becomes quite toasty. One tip: wear as little as possible to sleep, as that allows the heat to circulate within the sleeping bag most efficiently.
Once your night of icy adventure is over, look forward to spending the day sliding down over 35 snow slides at the resort’s winter playground, which happens to be the continent’s largest. Sick of the cold? Then warm up at the Valcartier Spa, located on the first level of the Hôtel Valcartier. Relax in a steam bath, the sauna, the indoor/outdoor pool and more. Oh, did I mention the resort also has an indoor water park? Teleport to a warm, Polynesian-themed waterworld with a large wave pool, more than 14 slides, a family pool, a multi-activity adventure river, a double surf wave, and plenty of chairs and resting spots for relaxation, including 12 private cabanas.
Pack accordingly and you’ll have a fabulous time at both the Valcartier Vacation Village and the Hôtel de Glace.