Question: When do you need an orientation on how to sleep in your hotel bed?
Answer: When you are spending the night at the Ice Hotel or Hôtel de Glace in Québec.
Spending the Night at the Ice Hotel
For many years, a marvel of ice and snow has been built just outside Québec City, each year more elaborate and fanciful than the last.
It takes 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice to build it. Weather permitting, the hotel is open from January through April.
And, yes, you can truly spend the night on a block of ice in the hotel, which also features two art galleries and an exhibition area, a chapel (dozens of weddings are performed there each year), plus two hot tubs, the ABSOLUT Ice Bar and a nightclub.
About the Ice Hotel
The Ice Hotel is on the grounds of Station touristique Duchesnay, which includes the Auberge Duchesnay, a 48-room property, as well as several lodges and 14 villas, about 30 minutes from Québec City.
Guests of both the Auberge and the Ice Hotel wander back and forth between the properties.
Ice Hotel guests dine at the Auberge restaurant and can flee to it if they can’t stand the cold. (Rooms at the lodge are reserved for Ice Hotel guests in case they can’t hack it, but that happens rarely.)
More about the bed, though, which is the first thing on anybody’s mind when they hear about the hotel.
While you are really on top of a block of ice, there are a few things in between you and that cold surface: a thick foam mattress covered by a fleece sheet and a wool blanket or soft deer pelt.
At 9 p.m., a sub-zero sleeping bag is delivered to your room. These sleeping bags keep you warm in temperatures as low as -22° F (-30° C), or so my group was told during orientation.
Last year when I went with a friend, the Ice Hotel was completely full on a Sunday night in February.
At the mandatory orientation, a staffer explained how to use the narrow sleeping bags called “mummy bags,” going so far as to get into it.
To everyone’s complete disbelief, she claimed the best way to sleep in it was in the nude.
Considering that during winter in Québec the outside temperatures can vary from 13° F (-25° C) in January to 41° F (5° C) in March, this was a little hard to swallow.
She swore it was true, though, explaining that if you sweat inside the sleeping bag it creates moisture, which would then make you cold and truly miserable.
The hotel has 34 rooms and theme suites, ranging from a children’s room with a slide connecting two beds to doubles to full-size beds.
The Prices of Staying Per Night
Prices start at US$ 515 (CAD$ 595) per couple and include dinner, a drink in the Ice Bar, breakfast, a tour and sleeping gear (as well as a back-up room at the lodge).
Add-ons are available, such as dog-sledding and ice skating, for additional fees.
While the design changes slightly each year, the feeling of being in a one-floor igloo-style mansion stays the same.
In fact, it’s easy to get a little confused in all the corridors, which look alike with their snow-packed walls. Helpful guides point you in the right direction if you get lost.
During the day, crowds of people come by to visit the hotel.
The Peaceful Night
But at night it is peaceful, with just the overnight guests wandering the halls, grinning absurdly at each other in camaraderie. Yes, we are the brave, or foolhardy, souls out for an adventure.
Despite lots of nervous chatter about not being hardy enough to sleep in the frigid cold, my friend and I did make it through the night.
Of course, we first toured the hotel, checking out the artwork and the chapel. We sent an e-mail photo of ourselves home (there’s a computer and camera in the bar).
Then we danced around in the nightclub, which was, oddly enough, vacant. Where were all those other guests? Chickened out already, we wondered?
We then made our way to the hot tubs. Oh, there they were! When we finally went to bed around midnight, the hotel was quiet and we whispered as we made our way to our room down the snowy hallways.
As for the staffer’s assurance that less is better regarding the sleeping bag? Well, she was right!
If You Go
The Ice Hotel Québec-Canada
Probably one night at the hotel will be novelty enough, so before or after your stay make sure to venture to gorgeous Québec City, North America’s only walled city north of Mexico. The cobblestoned city in the French-speaking province seems like a tiny slice of Europe.
Carnival de Québec
The Québec winter carnival is a joyous way to celebrate the cold. Held January 27-February 12 this year, you can enjoy night parades, a canoe race on the St. Lawrence River, sleigh rides, dog sledding, snow sculptures, ice fishing, snow rafting, a crazy snow bath (people wear their bathing suits!), a children’s village and musical shows by Québécois performers, to name a few activities.
Hilton sur Vieux-Québec
Several area hotels offer Winter Carnival packages, which include accommodations, passes to all activities, a traditional sash and other perks. The Hilton sur Vieux-Québec is ideally situated, right in the thick of things.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Le Château Frontenac, supposedly the most-photographed hotel in the world, is another good option.
For an intimate B&B experience, check out Auberge-St. Antoine, a very unique and special property near the Old Port that was named one of the “World’s Best Places to Stay” by Condé Nast Travelermagazine for the last three years.
Quebec City Tourism