Sweden’s IceHotel | Sunday Observer

Sweden’s IceHotel

 Northern Lights over Torne River,  Photo: Kristian Mattiasson (Pix courtesy:wwww.icehotel.com)
Northern Lights over Torne River, Photo: Kristian Mattiasson (Pix courtesy:wwww.icehotel.com)

Glowing – that’s what it is, built entirely from snow and ice. Could it be the palace of the snow queen? It can certainly vie for the title for its artistry and grandeur. And it is one place where you get to sleep in the arms of the snow queen (literally, this year in the art suit “Queen of the North”). Sweden’s IceHotel has opened its doors to the guests for winter 2017-18.

Known as one of the seven modern wonders of the world, it is the very first of its kind to be established on the banks of Sweden’s largest national river, the Torne, in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, in 1989. Built from scratch every winter, it boasts the works of renowned artists and ice sculptors.

Its founder Yngve Bergqvist has had the concept for the hotel purely by accident. An entrepreneur and traveller, he had noted that though the riverside village had many activities during the summer months attracting tourists, there was none during winter. In an attempt to draw attention to the winter beauty of the village and inspired by the Japanese tradition of ice sculpting he had arranged an ice-sculpting workshop for artists inviting two of Japan’s professional ice sculptors. The success of the event in 1989 had lead to Bergqvist and his team building an igloo to showcase the exhibits using special manufacturing methods in 1990, which they named ARTic Hall. The year after, both, the manufacturing mechanism and the size and variety inside the igloo grew. While the manufacturing method had got refined and patented to Bergqvist and his team in Sweden and Norway; the ARTic Hall grew from 60 square meters to 250 and was used to house the exhibits plus a small bar. It was also used to host local church services and show movies during the time. One night, a party of tourists, who couldn’t find shelter for the night in Jukkasjärvi, had asked the team for permission to spend the night in the ARTic Hall. They had been equipped with reindeer skins and sleeping bags, to spend the night in exotic Lapland style. The following morning, the party’s enthralling experience had given Bergqvist and his team the concept of the IceHotel . A year after, the showcasing of ice sculpture was turned into an impressive, luxurious hospitality venture.

A symposium of artists

Art encapsulates the IceHotel. It is also known as a ‘symposium’ of artists. No two suits in the hotel are similar. Neither are the hotels built each year.

This year, the management has selected 15 teams comprising 36 artists from 17 countries including Mongolia, Ecuador, Argentina, USA, England, Ethiopia and Sweden to create its 15 ‘Art Suits’. Another 20 deluxe suits uniquely designed by artists are added to its 35 artistic chambers. While the Main Hall, Ice Chapel and the Ice Bar have been an integral part of the Hotel since its inception, this year it had incorporated a special Ice Ceremony Hall and Ice Gallery, in addition. The Ceremony Hall replaces the Ice Chapel as a place for weddings, engagements, baptisms and other events.

How it is built

The latest IceHotel is built from 30,000 cubic meters of ‘snice’ a special mixture of snow and ice manufactured for building the hotel. Another 500 metric tons (5,000 m3) of clear natural ice from the Torne River has been used in creating related art work, chandeliers, glasses and ice bars.

Early spring the team harvests huge blocks of crystal clear natural ice which has grown to its thickest from the Torne River. The area where the ice is harvested from is carefully monitored, sweeping away the snow and allowing ice to grow. The harvested ice is stored away and used for ice constructions and to build the next IceHotel .

The construction of the seasonal part of the IceHotel begins early winter, as soon as the Torne River starts freezing. Depending on the designs selected for the art suits a mixture of ‘snice’ made out of ice from the Torne River, snow and air is poured into catenary arch shaped moulds and allowed to set. Once the meters thick ‘snice’ is ready for work, usually by the end of November artists from all over the world begin creating their exquisite artwork in the form of uniquely designed rooms and common areas.

The whole construction process generally takes about six weeks and by mid December, the hotel is ready to welcome its first guests.

However, the construction process continues and more rooms are added till about the end of December.

There are no bathrooms or lockers in the seasonal part of the IceHotel, guests leave their belongings in the nearby warm-rooms before getting ready to sleep in a warm sleeping bag on reindeer skins on an ice bed. Bathrooms and saunas are provided in a special area a few meters away. A usual visit to the IceHotel consists of 2 nights in the warm rooms and one night in an ice room. Since 2016, the IceHotel keeps part of it – 20 deluxe rooms and the Ice Bar as the IceHotel 365 where visitors can experience ice and snow throughout the year.

Lapland attractions

It is estimated that each year, around 50,000 to 60,000 guests (day visitors and those who stay overnight) visit the IceHotel.

It is one place where visitors expect to see the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights, the lights that occur around the northern magnetic pole.

The hotel organizes a northern lights tour on snowmobile. In addition, the hotel organizes tours on dog sleds, ice sculpting, arctic yoga, saunas and dinners. A novelty at the 28th IceHotel is a veranda with a chef’s table which offers a 12 course Lapland dinner, focusing on local produce. The cost of a three-night stay at this year’s IceHotel would be about £1,150 per person. The seasonal part of the hotel is open till March 2018.