While the border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed throughout at least Feb. 21, Quebec is making sure Americans don’t miss out on one of the coolest experiences on the continent: Hôtel de Glace, the only hotel made entirely of snow and ice in North America.
The temporary structure made of 40,000 tons of snow has created a 3D tour experience that allows travelers to virtually explore its themed rooms and suites safely from the coziness of their homes. Also featured are a slide, ice bar, and a chapel, where weddings are actually performed. While winding through the icy halls, peek into rooms artistically carved with mountainscapes, flocks of birds, and even a dragon with light-up eyes.
Among the virtual features are a dollhouse mode that allows you to get a sense of how immense the structure is and a floor plan view to better understand how the rooms are interconnected. A measuring tool also gives you the capability to find out exact distances between any points (or figure out how far the fireplaces are from the ice beds!). Those who have an Oculus Quest — or other virtual reality device — can also use their sets for an even more immersive experience.
Hôtel de Glace is located 20 minutes northwest of Quebec City at Village Vacances Valcartier, a resort and recreational facility that also includes a winter playground, indoor water park, game room, and 6,000-square-foot spa.
The idea for the ice hotel started in 1996 when entrepreneur Jacques Desbois saw a story on Sweden’s Icehotel and thought it should definitely be done in Quebec because of the city’s snowy reputation. Now celebrating its 21st year, the first edition opened in 2001. A team of about 30 workers and 15 sculptors work for six weeks a year to craft the hotel each year for its January opening. Nearly 2 million people have visited and about 70,000 people have braved the cold to stay there overnight (guests also get access to a warm room in the adjacent four-star hotel).
The Hôtel de Glace is open this season — in a smaller form still with 15,000 tons of snow — with mask mandates and physically distanced measures in place. This year’s theme features Quebec tales and legends. A collaboration with the International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, which wasn’t held this year, is reflected in a hockey-themed suite. However, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau warned residents yesterday, “If you have a trip: cancel it,” even indulging in the Bernie Sanders meme over the weekend to say, “Now is not the time to travel.”