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500 tons of ice form core of Quebec’s seasonal hotel

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by Patrick Brennan

The snow is blowing and it’s bitterly cold — ideal conditions for Jacques Dubois to start building his unique hotel.
500 tons of ice form core of Quebec’s seasonal hotel


The snow is blowing and it’s bitterly cold — ideal conditions for Jacques Dubois to start building his unique hotel.

When the weather conditions start to ease up in spring he’ll fire up his bulldozer on April Fool’s Day and send it crashing through his world famous hotel, crushing all 36 bedrooms, meeting rooms, bar, chapel and its massive ballroom, so they can run off into a nearby maple forest.

Dubois builds Quebec’s Ice Hotel.

This is the 10th time he has built the 30,000-square-foot hotel beside Lac St. Joseph, 42 kilometres north of Quebec City. And to salute the 10th anniversary Dubois is adding an addition — the world’s largest igloo.

Guests in one of the ice hotel’s sold-out rooms.

The hotel’s ball room will be an igloo 12.2 metres (40 ft.) in diameter with a ceiling 7.6 metres (25 ft.) high. Among its features will be a huge video screen so guests can watch the Super Bowl plus Vancouver’s winter Olympics surrounded by snow and ice.

The entire structure gets built in five weeks using 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow. A construction crew of 20 commenced the rough construction early in December when large blocks of ice started arriving from a Montreal ice maker.

Stacked like bricks, the ice blocks will form the interior walls and pillars supporting the dome structure, as well as the beds, the bar, chairs and the pews in the chapel. There’s no coat room. You’ll want to keep it on.

Artists had carved out intricate works of art from ice that adorn the hotel’s suites, corridors, ballroom, pub and grand lobby, to be ready for the official opening early earlier this week.

If you’re considering paying up to $775 a night to sleep on a bed of ice in a sparkling room of ice, don’t delay. The 36 bedrooms sell out quickly each year. By Thanksgiving, Hotel de Glace had already sold out 10 nights.

And Dubois, 46, says his chapel will see 40 weddings this winter. “It’s a new record for us.”

The tall pillars of ice blocks support a steel and wooden frame that is filled with snow. As the snow is compacted and hardened with ice, the frame is removed and left standing is a hotel made of nothing but ice and snow, plus lots of thick animals’ skins.

The skins are draped over beds, pews and chairs. There were more than 4,000 overnight guests last season, some staying for three nights, many coming back for the second or third year in a row. The guests come from around the world.

Overnight guests are issued an Arctic sleeping bag, a flashlight and a map on how to find the bathrooms, which are ultra clean and comfortable temporary facilities outside.

There is no electricity in the suites. At night the corridors are lined with small candles. Rooms are also lit with candles. Some have fireplaces but the heat goes up the exhaust pipe.

The four-foot thick ice walls keep the temperature at -5 C in the hotel, which is a lot warmer than the -30 C weather you’ll find outside in the Quebec countryside.

Like other classic hotels, there’s usually a variety of events underway at Hotel de Glace, from rock concerts, to fashion shows, to business meetings. And the hotel is popular with commercial and movie producers too.

Additional services offered just outside the 20-foot high lobby are dogsled rides, ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, saunas, plus fine dining and flush toilets in a permanent resort 200 yards away. And you can tour Quebec City by helicopter from the parking lot of The Ice Hotel.

Dubois uses a bulldozer to flatten his cool hotel on April Fool’s Day. “As the temperatures warm up, the structure weakens and we don’t want kids sneaking in after we’re closed and getting hurt in a collapse.”

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