Just call me Nanook of The Bronx, the
first Jewish Eskimo. There I was, indoors as it were, a
multilayered mannequin wearing long johns, lined pants, a
turtle-neck shirt, a wool sweater, a hunter's vest, an Austrian
loden coat, insulated socks, a Norwegian ski cap, furry boots, a
Scottish football scarf and claw-like gloves a hockey goalie would
Why the sartorial
overkill? I was simply trying to fend off hypothermia in the frosty
confines of the Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada, French Canada's answer to
The polar ice cap
may be melting, Mr. Gore, but you wouldn't know it here in this
crystal palace, where the ambient temperature never rises above 28
degrees or, thankfully, sinks below 23 degrees.
The soft drinks
in the Ice Bar and N'Ice Club nightclub are kept in a fridge so
they don't freeze solid.
bone-chilling boite, if you want a shot of vodka, you take it in
the rocks, as opposed to on, inasmuch as your antifreeze cocktail
is poured into a hollowed-out chunk of ice.
500 tons of ice and 1,500 tons of snow and rebuilt over a month's
time at the start of each winter, the Ice Hotel, about a 30-minute
drive west of Quebec City, is a high-end property.
No little bottles of shampoo
Even though the
Ice Hotel is devoid of any of the plush accoutrements usually
associated with the high life, a typical one-night package in a
themed suite can cost as much as $406 per person, with a two-person
Start with the
basics, or lack of same: no room service, no TV, no
telephone, no private bath, no chocolates on your pillow (no puffy
pillow, either), no fancy amenities (or even crummy ones), no heat
and no mercy.
Is it any wonder
that, according to a hotel representative, fewer than 1% of
visitors stay more than one night?
What guests get
for their money, however, is an adventure unmatched anywhere in the
world, save for the original Ice Hotel, which is located in the
remote village of Jukkasjarvi in northern Sweden, both a far cry
and a long haul from Quebec.
starts in the Aigle, a welcoming retreat with a fireplace and
central heating that overlooks the Ice Hotel.
The Aigle, all
homey and warm, is an unlikely place for a drill that educates edgy
participants on how to avoid getting cold feet (literally and
figuratively) or an attack of "frost phobia."
taught in the Aigle include:
How to deploy
the sleeping bags that await guests in their rooms. There is more
to hitting the sack than just getting into it, unfortunately,
including a calculated choreography of unzipping, zipping,
toggle-tying, flap-flipping and escape artist body-bending that
left this sleeping beauty as tightly wrapped as the mummy of King
Where to find
the heated communal bathrooms, which are distant enough to make a
urologist think twice about getting up to go in the dead of
What to wear,
or not wear, in the sleeping bag. Guests shouldn't overdress
because sweating leads to chills.
change into dry clothing made out of synthetics; avoid cotton,
which retains humidity; put on a pair of warm, dry socks, maybe
two; and don a toque, or knitted hat.
Or, they can go
to sleep naked, as I did, and prepare to meet their
The Ice Hotel,
which at full capacity houses 88 guests per night, comprises 36
rooms and themed suites, including one with a private hot tub, and
some with vaulted ceilings as high as 18 feet and walls as thick as
The rooms roughly
measure 14 feet by 8 feet, while the suites are 14 feet by 14 feet.
The packed-snow guest room floors are not vacuumed but scraped when
it is time for the house staff to tidy up.
such as a gleaming bench in the shape of a polar bear, a glittering
chandelier and a large armchair, are artfully sculpted from blocks
A deerskin duvet
My suite featured
an igloo enclosing my bed, which itself was an uncompromising block
of ice. The bed was layered with a thick foam mattress, a fleece
sheet, deer skin pelts and topped by that all-important sleeping
The mummy sack,
which is delivered to the room
at 9 p.m., is guaranteed to resist temperatures as low as minus-22
degrees, but who wants to test that claim?
The sack proved
more than sufficient, however, to ward off the "umbles" --
stumbles, mumbles, grumbles and fumbles -- that, according to the
National Institute of Health, mark the onset of
It turned out
that, after six or so hours of sleep, I was no more the "umble man"
features of the Ice Hotel include two outdoor hot tubs and an
adjacent sauna; two exhibition rooms; ice artwork; and a
standalone, nondenominational chapel where 75 brides and grooms got
their marriages off to a chilly start this winter.
With each stay,
breakfast is included at the Auberge Duchesnay's Aux Quatre-Temps,
an excellent restaurant (don't miss having dinner there) that is
the social center of the Station Touristique Duchesnay, an
all-season resort on which grounds the Ice Hotel complex
The Ice Hotel
closes on April 1. The 2008 season will open in early January, and
travel agents, who receive 8% commission, are advised to book
Sylvain Auclair, the Ice Hotel's marketing and media relations
consultant, the choice dates -- the first two weeks of January,
Jan. 27 to Feb. 11 (the Quebec Winter Carnival), the week of
Valentine's Day and all weekends -- sell out early.
"We have only two
suites with a fireplace, and only one of these with a hot tub, so
they go on a first-come, first-served basis," he said.
information, visit www.icehotel-canada.com.
To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].