Montreal’s Snow and Ice Hotel

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When does a hotel stay become a bona fide adventure? When it’s a blustery 10 degrees outside yet a mere 30 in your appointed room. The Snow Village in Montreal has 25 literally super-cool rooms constructed entirely of snow and ice, providing an Eskimo-esque experience in the middle of a city (well, on Saint Helen’s Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River). Consider it a chance to pre-book a unique and memorable one-night stand.

At check-in we were told that temperatures inside the igloos hovered between 23 and 32F, regardless of the temp outside. And then that forecast proved slightly optimistic at the Jägermeister Ice Bar, when our red wine turned to slush in the glass. We promptly switched to Bloody Caesars, which proved only slightly more adept at fighting the chill. The bartender explained they store all the bottles in insulated coolers – not to keep them cold, but to keep them from freezing. We stuck to hot cocktails the rest of the evening.

For the walk to dinner, we wore down jackets and insulated pants. Long underwear and jeans would suffice, but we’d suggest purchasing hand and foot warmers to stuff inside your gloves and boots – and a hat is a must. Once we were seated on ice chairs and draped in luxe fur, a bundled-up waiter brought steaming bowls of sunchoke potage and set them down on wooden cutting boards (not to protect us, but to avoid melting the table). Next came roasted hen and veggies in a cast-iron crock-pot, which doubled as a hand-warmer. As soon as the hot food and drink started to take effect, we were able to enjoy the surreal ambiance.

The three foot-thick walls are made of snow, sculpted to resemble the inside of a cavernous wine cellar. An ice tower in the center fed by hidden electrical wires illuminated the space, causing all of the ice to sparkle like crystal. By the time our dessert materialized, our toes were starting to go numb – a discouraging precursor to slumbering in a bed made of ice, but we stoked our courage with a final vodka hot chocolate. Sleeping turned out to be considerably warmer than eating, thanks to a thick mattress and hi-tech Mountain Hardware bags – which are rated at -30 F and zip together to share body heat. The only problem was all those drinks – the inevitable midnight bathroom excursion required walking 150 yards through snow tunnels to the (thankfully) heated toilet trailer. [Open until March 31, 2013, from $199 CAD per person, includes sleeping bag and continental breakfast;]

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