By: Vilma Góngora
Photos: Javier Pinzón
In my childhood, when everything still amazed me, my imagination soared to unimaginable heights as I listened to stories of the Eskimos. I was fascinated by their customs, houses, food and clothing. I used to wonder how those men and women could survive under such extreme temperatures. In those days of yore, I learned about them in encyclopedias and dreamed of building an igloo or spending the night in a fortress made of snow.
It took decades for my utopian dream to come true, in Montreal (Canada), thousands of miles from my hometown. In the center of this French-speaking city, on the island Sainte-Hélène, in the arms of the St. Lawrence River, stands Snow Village, a resort guaranteeing a unique experience for those willing to live magic, once-in-a-lifetime moments in extreme, freezing temperatures.
All the buildings here, like the furniture in them, are made of ice and snow. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen in the real world and I was drawn into the most intricate of enigmatic wonders, almost unable to come out again. Lost in thought, I couldn’t imagine how engineers and architects managed to build this complex from nothing but ice, much less keep it stable and solid in that state. So I decided to spend my next three cold Canadian nights in an igloo, although I could have chosen a standard suite or one of the themed suites in the hotel’s main building, also made from ice.
My choice was enchanting indeed! My room, like all others in Snow Village, was equipped with a bed built into a foundation of ice, with a wooden frame, on which rested a comfortable mattress and a sleeping bag that resists temperatures down to 30°C below zero.
Although I love tropical heat, cold climates seduce me as well. So the hotel’s constant temperature of -5 °C posed no problem. An hour before unpacking my suitcase in my polar “lair,” I attended an introductory talk that provided key information on how to make the most of my stay at the ice hotel and, most importantly, maintain an ideal body temperature.
Ice Bar and Restaurant
After checking in at reception, I agreed to meet my fellow travelers for dinner at nine that evening. The four of us met promptly in the Pommery Ice Restaurant, where we sat down to taste the culinary delights prepared in the kitchen of the only ice restaurant in North America and share this new experience in the extreme cold. Suddenly, a Frenchified English voice interrupted our conversation with a “warm” welcome and an explanation of the menu. It was none other than Matthieu Saunier, executive chef of the Montreal InterContinental, also in charge of running the ice restaurant kitchen. He spoke a bit about some of his creations and how “the traditional hotel industry has taken on a new and ‘fresh’ dimension.” After our hunger was satisfied we were tired, and we retired to our ice rooms.
The next night was devoted to relaxation. Where? In the Jägermeister Ice Bar. It was Thursday, but what we thought would be a quiet time turned out to be Montreal’s coldest and most cheerful Happy Hour, with karaoke, guest DJs, and hot drinks. It was such a pleasant evening that we returned to the ice bar on Friday to enjoy everything “on the rocks,” even after being warned that a flood of activities were scheduled for the same place on Saturday.
I was delighted with the precious Ice Chapel architecture; it resembles a temple with a huge arched entrance and naves arranged like in a cathedral. It may sound corny, but I felt like I was in a fairy tale and even considered getting married all over again after inquiring about the Wedding Package, which includes the arrival of the bride and groom in a horse-drawn carriage, handmade ice goblets for the wedding guests, and a red carpet entrance to the chapel, among other services.
The truth is, this experience sent me back to my childhood and the bedtime stories about fishermen in icy Arctic waters that my father used to read to me. I want to repeat the experience, but next time with my family. I can just imagine my daughters’ joy at seeing Snoro, the Snow Village mascot, the inflatable games, Norwegian slides, and an avalanche of other New York-style activities. Besides, it’s hardly fair that I should be the only one to enjoy the Snow Village tales told by a storyteller, or the fireworks on dark nights, or sleigh rides over snow and ice. So next March I’ll be back, but with my family.
Keep in mind
Temperatures inside the hotel range from -2 °C to -5 °C, regardless of external weather conditions.
If a guest is unable to withstand the low temperatures in the igloos, a transfer to a hotel room with warmer temperatures can be requested for an additional charge.
It’s a good idea to attend the instructional talk that provides guests with useful information, tools, and a kit with everything you need for a good night’s stay. To stay warm and comfortable inside the facility, the hotel recommends that guests remain dressed in wool socks, thermal underwear (from hip to foot), a scarf, wool hat, gloves, and shoes with crenellated soles.
Snow Village: 130 Ch. Tour de l’Isle, Parc Jean Drapeau, Montreal, Quebec (Canada) H3C 4G8. Phone 1 855 788 2181 / firstname.lastname@example.org