There is something about travelling that causes people to do things they would never normally do in their day-to-day lives. Maybe it’s the fleeting nature of the excursion or the idea that you’re temporarily free of your usual constraints. Or maybe it’s the desire to overcome a longstanding phobia. Call it the “bucket list” mentality, it is the reason you’ll see a person who suffers from vertigo impulsively decide that she wants to try bungee jumping while visiting Australia, or why a normally reserved Wall Street-type will be caught tearing up the dance floor at a discotheque in Munich.

As for me, I’m the first to complain about cold weather as soon as I notice the leaves turning, and yet, last year I voluntarily made the trek to Quebec’s Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace) to experience winter at its most extreme. Located on the outskirts of Quebec City, this seasonal structure is comprised of 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow. With over thirty uniquely-designed suites (the interior design changes from year to year) containing ice beds, frozen love seats and little else, this is the place where guests bid one another a good night, sleep tight and pray they do not get frostbite.

Well, not exactly. In fact, the Ice Hotel is very well-engineered, and it turns out guests can have a surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep. Modeled after the original Ice Hotel in Sweden, the building retains an adequate amount of heat inside. And while there’s no denying that a certain degree of adventurousness is required, the Ice Hotel does not only appeal to rugged outdoorsmen: last season the property counted a six-month old baby alongside her mother as well as a ninety-one year old woman among its guests.

Still after a few hours on site, we were grateful for the temporary relief in the form of an indoor pavilion that included a small restaurant, restrooms and a gift shop. There was also a Nordic sauna and outdoor hot tub to warm up in. (Note: for those not ready to commit to an entire night here, the Ice Hotel offers a few alternatives: members of the public can go on a guided tour of the property during the day and still get a feel for the place. There are also all-inclusive packages which provide access to both an ice suite at the hotel as well as a room at the nearby Four Points by Sheraton). But wintertime is the main theme here, so the majority of guests spent the day dog-sledding, ice-skating, or taking a run down the giant ice slide.

As for more adult-oriented pursuits, after hours the Ice Hotel opened up a nightclub, with a DJ spinning Top 40 hits. It was quite the sight to see a crowd of people bust a move while wearing snowsuits. I was content to just hang back at the bar while enjoying a tall cool one – a Vodka cocktail served in an ice glass.

The elaborate ice sculptures, including a 600-pound ice chandelier made the Ice Hotel the most elegant igloo I could imagine. There was definitely a dreamlike quality to this place. Unsurprisingly, the hotel offers a number of “romantic getaway” packages. I even spotted a wedding taking place at the on-site chapel, with a jubilant couple ready to take the plunge into matrimonial bliss.

Well, plunge insofar as the frozen elements would allow.

~ Lynn Burshtein

Promotional tour was provided courtesy of Hotel de Glace. Photo © 

Check the Hotel de Glace website for more info.