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An ice hotel is a temporary hotel made up of snow, sculpted blocks of ice, and, in some cases, some steel framing. They are promoted by their sponsors and have special features for the travelers who are interested in novelties and unusual environments, and thus are in the class of destination hotels. Their lobbies are often filled with ice sculptures, and food and drinks are specially chosen for the circumstances.
All of the ice hotels are reconstructed every year, and are dependent upon constant sub-freezing temperatures during construction and operation. The walls, fixtures, and fittings are made entirely of ice or compacted snow, and are held together using a substance known as snice, which takes the place of mortar in a traditional brick-built hotel.
Existing each year between December and April, the Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi, about 17 km from Kiruna, Sweden, was the world's first ice hotel. In 1989, Japanese ice artists visited the area and created an exhibition of ice art. In spring 1990, French artist Jannot Derid held an exhibition in a cylinder-shaped igloo in the area. One night there were no rooms available in the town, so some of the visitors asked for permission to spend the night in the exhibition hall. They slept in sleeping bags on top of reindeer skin – the first guests of the "hotel."
The entire hotel is made out of snow and ice blocks taken from the Torne River; even the glasses in the bar are made of ice. Each spring, around March, Icehotel harvests tons of ice from the frozen Torne River and stores it in a nearby production hall with room for over 100,000 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow. The ice is used for creating Icebar designs and ice glasses, for ice sculpting classes, events and product launches all over the world while the snow is used for building a strong structure for the building. About 1,000 tons of what is left is used in the construction of the next Ice Hotel.
The Alpha Resort Tomamu in the Shimukappu village (Hokkaido island) builds and opens an ice hotel every year. It is believed to be Japan’s first and only hotel constructed out of ice: a 15 meter-wide dome where everything from the bed to the table and the ceiling is one big ice sculpture. The hotel interiors are typically -3 to -5°C. Guests dine on ice tables and sit on ice chairs covered with sheepskin.
The Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) first opened in January 2001. It was originally located on the shores of Lac-Saint-Joseph, Quebec, 31 minutes north of Quebec City, but has since moved closer to the city, 10 minutes away from Old Town Quebec. It operates from the first week in January to the last week in March.
Kirkenes Snow Hotel is situated in the easternmost town of Norway, close to the Norwegian-Russian border. The hotel had its first season during winter 2006/2007, the hotel had 20 rooms and the largest snow dome in Norway (8 metres high and 12 metres in diameter). All the rooms were individually decorated by the ice artists from Finland and Japan. The west Snow Hall was decorated by a local sculptor Arild Wara. A night in the snow hotel is combined with a special dinner prepared on an open fire, the visitors can also get a sauna before or after staying at the hotel. There is also a reindeer park and a husky farm in the hotel area.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta has been rebuilt yearly since 2000. It is Europe’s northernmost ice hotel, as it is located in the Finnmark region and is approximately 250 km from North Cape. The 2000 square meter hotel has 30 rooms, including 2 suites and it is decorated with numerous ice sculptures and ice furnishings, including lighting systems which enhance the different types of crystalline formations. Besides the bedrooms the hotel also contains an ice chapel, ice gallery and ice bar where drinks are served in glasses made of ice. The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta has a changing theme every year. In 2004, it was a Viking theme, in 2005, Norwegian fairytales, and in 2006, the theme was wild animals of the region. The guests use sleeping bags that sit on top of reindeer hides.
Ice Bar, run by Ice Hotel is a bar located in downtown Oslo which serves drinks all year long in an artificially frozen environment.
In 2006, the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe was built in Romania, deep in the Făgăraş Mountains, at an altitude of 2034 m. Due to its altitude and remote location the Ice Hotel is only accessible via cable car in the winter.
This picturesque setting is next to Bâlea Lake, where each year local craftsmen wait for the lake to freeze, before using the ice to build the small 14 room Ice Hotel and its adjacent Ice Church. Local artists imitate sculptures by Romanian modernist sculptor, Constantin Brâncuși. Typically the hotel is completed in December and is open until it melts in late April or early May.
Bedding, furs, specialist sleeping bags are all provided, with bathroom facilities nearby. There are also two chalets within walking distance, which also provide accommodation. Activities such as skiing, sledging or perhaps a ride on a snow bike are on offer. For those who are more organised and adventurous you can even arrange heliskiing.
The Bâlea Lake Ice Hotel is Romanian owned, but has a relationship with a travel company Untravelled Paths Limited, based in the United Kingdom.
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