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An ice hotel is a temporary hotel made up of snow and sculpted blocks of ice. They may be visited by adventurous travelers that are comfortable with the outdoors. Ice hotels are dependent upon sub-freezing temperatures, are constructed from ice and snow, and typically have to be rebuilt every year. Ice hotels exist in several countries, and they have varying construction styles, services and amenities, the latter of which may include ice bars, restaurants, chapels, saunas and hot tubs.
Ice hotels are promoted for adventurous travelers who are interested in novelties and unusual environments and are comfortable with the outdoors. Customers have to be prepared to sleep in beds made of snow or ice, but in the warmth of furs, blankets and sleeping bags designed to withstand extremely cold temperatures. Temperature in the rooms is below zero, but much warmer than outside. Staying at an ice hotel is expensive as prices for a night range from around US $300 to $3,000. Some ice hotels may be destination hotels.
Lobbies are often filled with ice sculptures, and food and drinks are specially chosen for the circumstances. For instance, glasses in an ice bar can be made of ice and people sit on benches made of ice. An ice bar, sometimes associated with an ice hotel, is a drinking establishment primarily made of ice.
Ice hotels are dependent upon sub-freezing temperatures (colder than 32°F or 0°C) during construction and operation. This imposes time constraints on construction and makes the hotel's season short. Construction typically begins between November and March when snow can be compacted and thick levels of ice form. Although constructing an ice hotel is more labor-intensive than a regular building, building materials are cheaper. Ice hotels have to be reconstructed every year. This is not entirely detrimental to the operators; if an ice hotel does not meet its financial goals, the owner can simply let the building melt in the spring and is left with no building to permanently upkeep.
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. Sometimes steel framing is used in their construction.
The Hôtel de Glace (English: Ice Hotel) first opened in January 2001. 85 rooms are furnished with ice beds covered with deer furs and mattresses and equipped with arctic sleeping bags. 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. It has the adjacent Le Quatre Temps restaurant, an ice bar named Absolut Ice Bar, which serves Absolut Vodka and other beverages, sauna and outdoor hot tub. Construction involves the use of blocks of ice and snow. In 2005, construction involved "400 tons of clear ice blocks, trucked in from Montreal, and 12,000 tons of snow produced on site." Beds are constructed of ice, which are topped with "a wooden boxspring and mattress", and mummy-style sleeping bags are provided. The hotel also offers paid tours, the participants of which are allowed to use the ice bar until midnight. Ice Hotel was previously the only ice hotel in North America.
Snow Village is a half-hectare village and 30-room ice hotel located in Parc Jean-Drapeau, east of Montreal, in Quebec, Canada that first opened in 2012. It has suites, standard rooms and igloos, an ice restaurant, ice bar and patio, ice chapel and outdoor hot tubs. It is constructed from man-made snow created by snowmaking machines, which is blown onto frames, the latter of which are later removed when construction is completed. This is performed because the density of the artificial snow is greater compared to that of natural snow. The hotel is equipped with fire alarms that are built into snow walls, as required by the City of Montreal. Initial construction cost $2.1 million, and the Quebec government provided some financial support for its construction.
The SnowCastle of Kemi in Kemi, Finland is the largest snow fort in the world, is rebuilt every winter and has a snow hotel with double rooms and a honeymoon suite. The facility also has a restaurant, chapel, and ice sculptures. It is located near the Gulf of Bothnia. The style of the facility, including the theme, shape, size and decorations, changes annually.
The Lainio Snow Village is located 150 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland, within the country of Finland. This snow hotel is built in the winter atop a wood building. In 2007, construction began in the month of November, and in early December it began providing lodging for guests. The hotel has restrooms and a sauna, and the village has a restaurant. Rooms are decorated with artwork created from snow. In 2007, art students contributed to the art in unison with professional artists. In the summer, the village provides log cabin lodging.
The Alpha Resort Tomamu in the Shimukappu village of Hokkaido Island in Japan builds and opens an ice hotel every year. It may be Japan's first ice hotel, and everything in it is constructed from ice. The hotel interiors are typically -3 to -5°C. Guests dine on ice tables and sit on ice chairs covered with sheepskin. The hotel provides sheepskin apparel for guests to wear to stay warm.
The Ice Lodge in Norway is part of the Bjorligard Hotel. It is the largest ice hotel in Norway, and its season is longer compared to other ice hotels due to the 1,250 meters altitude of its location.
The Kirkenes Snow Hotel is located in Finnmark, Norway, the easternmost and northernmost county in Norway. The hotel is 15 kilometers from the Norwegian-Russian border, and first opened in 2006. It 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. The hotel also has an ice bar, and a reindeer park and a husky farm exist in the hotel's area.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, located on the outlying area of Alta, has been rebuilt yearly since 1999. It is Europe’s northernmost ice hotel, as it is located in the Finnmark region and is approximately 250 km from North Cape. The 2,000 square meter hotel has 30 rooms, including two 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. Additional facilities include a sauna and outdoor bathtubs with hot water. The ice sculptures at the hotel change yearly. 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. To stay warm when sleeping, guests use sleeping bags that sit on top of reindeer hides.
Bâlea Lake Ice Hotel, the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe was built in 2006 in Romania, deep in the Făgăraș Mountains, at an altitude of 2034 meters. In the winter, it is only accessible by cable car, because national road DN7, the Transfăgărășan, is closed 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 12 room Ice Hotel and its adjacent Ice Church, Ice Restaurant and Ice Bar. 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 March or April.
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 riding a snow bike are on offer. For those who are more organised and adventurous you can even arrange heliskiing.
Each year between December and April, the Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi is open. It is about 17 km from Kiruna, Sweden, and it was the world's first ice hotel. 80 rooms and suites are available for tourists. In addition to the entrance hall, the hotel also has a chapel and an ice bar named Absolut Icebar. 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 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. Some of the blocks of ice weigh two tons, and cranes are used to place them. 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.
Each year, for the past 24 years now, the ice hotel has accepted applications from artists around the world to design the world-famous hotel’s art suites. In 2013 there were more than 200 applications submitted from a wide range of artists to design and build an Art Suite. These included artists from a variety of creative backgrounds – including theatre and photography, to interior design and architecture. Each year around 15 applications are accepted with their designs and head there in November to build the suites.
The ski resort in the village of Gstaad, Switzerland in the Swiss Alps has an igloo village where guests can rent igloos for overnight lodging. In the igloos, sleeping areas are raised, and are "layered with foam, carpet and sheep skins", atop which sleeping bags are provided. Lighting in the igloos is provided by candles.
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