Friday, October 9, 2009
Looking for a cool, hip place to stay? Do you mean “cool” literally? Do you fancy paying over $300 a night for a windowless hotel room with no doors, bed sheets or indoor plumbing? Glad you asked.
This winter marks the 20th anniversary of Sweden’s Ice Hotel. Every year since 1990, from December through April, the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi (pop. 519; 140 miles north of the Arctic Circle), has hosted tourists in an ephemeral hotel made entirely of sculpted blocks of ice.
The welcome mat is out at the Ice Hotel. Note the deer skin entry doors and antler door handles.
The floors are covered with snow, and ice sculptures grace the public areas. The hotel features a bar, chapel (weddings are popular), main hall, reception area and rooms for over 100 guests, who sit and sleep on blocks of sculpted ice fashioned into chairs and beds.
Animal skins are placed atop the beds, although guests sleep in protective thermal sleeping bags.
The ice used in construction is harvested from the adjacent Torne River, a prominent river in Lapland. This same ice is used for the hotel's decorative elements, such as ice sculptures, tables, chairs and fixtures.
Each suite is of a unique design, and the architecture of the hotel is changed each year, as it is rebuilt from scratch. Artists submit design ideas, and a jury selects about forty of them to create the chapel, Absolut Icebar, reception desk, fiber-optic chandeliers, sculptures, main hall and guest suites. At the Absolut Vodka sponsored Icebar, even the glasses are crafted from ice molds.
Overnight guests use bathrooms housed in an adjacent heated structure, where breakfast is served. The cost of such unique habitation is not cheap – rooms start at US $335 and top out at US $975 (per night, single or double occupancy). When planning a visit, bear in mind that the sun does not rise from early December through mid January, although there are a few hours of twilight during those weeks. Choose from 85 rooms scattered throughout the 43,000 square foot facility. Non guests may visit the hotel at a cost of 295 Swedish Kronor (US $41.50 per person).
The interior of the hotel is at a constant temperature of approximately 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 Celsius), so multiple night bookings are challenging. Travel costs are also considerable, given that reaching the remote site is an inconvenient, arduous and expensive undertaking. The Ice Hotel is nearly 600 miles north of Stockholm.
In spring the whole thing simply melts back into the landscape, to be rebuilt the following December. This year's chapel, with deer skin covered pews, and lobby lounge area are captured in the photos below.
Ice Hotels have since been constructed in other locations, as well: USA (Alaska), Canada (Québec), Norway, Finland, Greenland and Romania (accessible only by cable car). Your dear blogger stayed in an Ice Hotel in Québec, Canada, some years ago, although I have made valiant efforts to erase the entire experience from my memory banks. It was an unpleasant, costly nightmare, and I lasted nearly seven hours before fleeing to the Chateau Frontenac, where I enjoyed the comforts of indoor heating and plumbing.