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How to survive a cold night in one of Quebec’s freezing ice hotels

How to survive a cold night in one of Quebec’s freezing ice hotels
Have you ever wanted to spend a night at an ice hotel? Journey to Quebec for an unforgettably cool experience!
I woke early. I looked around my small hotel room and watched as snowflakes gently floated through a hole in the ceiling. Any other day I would have been concerned. Today, I lay back, watched and smiled to myself. This was so cool…literally.  
I was in the world’s coldest hotel room, there was no heating and no TV, but I wasn’t complaining. I was in Valcartier, a 20 minute ride from Quebec City, spending a night at the Hôtel de Glace—the Ice Hotel—the only one of its kind in North America. 
"This was so cool…literally"
I was one of only about 160 people who would ever spend a night in this particular hotel room. A couple of months after my visit, the hotel, and my room with it, would become a very large puddle.  

More than a hotel 

I arrived early to explore Valcartier’s other frozen architecture—a chapel, bar and the Great Hall. I started in the ice chapel where I sat for a few moments on a block of pure, shiny ice that had been gorgeously carved into a pew. It was one of many and I was grateful it was covered with animal skins to prevent me from sticking to it.
Ice hotel chapel
2020, Ice Hotel, Quebec © Chris Moore
I marvelled at the magnificently carved altar and statues, made all the more impressive with subtle coloured lighting and, as my breath misted out in front of me, wondered if there was a time limit on sermons here. The Great Hall was exactly that—large and great with intricate ice carvings and sculptured murals that sparkled as muted colored lights played on the artwork, creating an ethereal effect. 
A modern, permanent (and heated) lodge on-site houses changing rooms and lockers, an auditorium, restrooms and a restaurant where breakfast is served. I was relieved to hear it was open around the clock so if I started to suffer from hypothermia, I had an escape room and a place to reconnect with my fingers and toes. 

Staying warm

In the warm and bright theatre auditorium, my fellow adventurers and I were given vital survival training: how to get into our sleeping bags. It was more of a cocoon than a sleeping bag, really, with only your eyes and nose visible when used correctly. 
"My fellow adventurers and I were given vital survival training: how to get into our sleeping bags"
The secret—the most important thing I would learn—is to make sure you go to bed warm and dry. Anything less would make for a miserable night. 

On the rocks 

Confident I had just increased my chances of survival, I headed straight to the bar. I was surprised to see open flames here, yet nothing was melting (the ambient temperature remained below freezing).
Ice hotel bar
2020, Ice Hotel, Quebec © Chris Moore
The barmaid, bundled up in her trapper’s hat, wrapped in a cozy quilt and with mittens like oven gloves, served me a brightly colored shot in a four-inch ice cube with a one-inch core. She didn’t ask if I wanted it on the rocks.  
I cannot remember the name (it wasn’t Horlicks) but I do remember two of these seemed to affect your speech and ability to stand. Holding it with both hands in my thick ski gloves, I managed to down my drink without dribbling (not easy) and before it became too diluted (it didn’t). 

Ready for bed

There was an indoor ice slide which became more appealing the more colored liquid I consumed. After a couple of bumpy runs, it was time to warm up before readying for bed. I stepped outside into the gently falling snow and headed to the outdoor hot tubs.
Changing quickly, I sank into the hot water wearing only trunks and a woolly hat, and made instant friends as we sat shoulder to shoulder pondering what the night would bring. Eventually and inevitably, the time came to brave the cold and head back to the lounge to dress for bed. Glowing warm, I dried off thoroughly. No pore was left untouched.
"As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see stars through the vent hole above me"
I wished I owned one of those head-to-toe cotton onesies that my grandpa wore back in the early 1900s. Short of that, a cotton tee shirt and thermal long johns did the trick. I brushed my teeth, used the restroom—this is vital—slipped on my ski-pants and jacket, put on my snow boots, popped a fresh pair of socks into my pocket and headed to my room.
Ice hotel room
2020, Ice Hotel, Quebec © Chris Moore
No keys are needed here—there isn’t a door to the room, just a curtain. My double bed (a wooden box-spring and mattress, covered with animal skins and sitting on blocks of ice) was waiting. A candle (my sole source of heat) stood flickering on a block of ice that imitated a bedside table. Losing my ski pants and jacket, I changed into my dry socks and climbed into my cocoon, zipping it up until only my eyes and nose were visible.
Taking one last look at the one-of-a-kind wall carving above my head, I blew out the candle. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see stars through the vent hole above me. I was snuggly warm, content and prayed I didn’t need to pee in the night. I nodded off and slept like a baby
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