This post is premature, but there’s a decided wintery nip in the air that brought to mind a memory of my night in a snow hotel.
The hotel build begins by blowing up giant balloons. They then compact snow around them, and pop the balloons, leaving the hotel behind.
Then Chinese artists spend two weeks of the year carving fantastical shapes in the walls of the rooms under an art project — the only way which allows them to enter the country for the specified time for this purpose. With the right lighting, these carvings are truly beautiful. The weather wasn’t right this time, leaving about 2 or 3 of the rooms unfinished. Local people completed the work in a simple Norwegian style, leaving them fairly plain. This upset a few visitors, as the choice of a room is a lottery. We were lucky — we got room 12 with a beautiful ship on the wall.
So how does one sleep in a Snow Hotel? The easiest answer is ‘carefully’. The beds are mattresses on a block surrounded by ice. You don’t sleep on ice — that would definitely be too cold and impractical. The sleeping bags suit up to -35 so are more than adequate for the -3 to -6 degrees in the hotel. Also provided is a sheet (more on that in a moment), woollen socks if needed — your socks must not be thin or wet — and a balaclava. They also suggest you may wear your own hat.
So…to bed. Go to the toilet. Seriously! Even though we didn’t go to bed until almost midnight, and were sensible, I still needed to get up during the night. The information says you have to go outside. This is misleading. What it means is you need to leave the bed and your room and traipse along the hall to the door at the end that leads into the adjacent main building where the restaurant, lounge, and shower/toilet facilities are situated. You don’t go ‘outside’ at all. Still, as our guide told us, you go through the 5 stages of grief:
Denial: I really don’t need the toilet.
Anger: Why did I have that last drink?
Bargaining: (with God or whatever your faith) to please, please, please just let me make it through the night without having to get up.
Depression: There’s no getting away from the fact I need the toilet.
Acceptance: I have to get up.
Getting up isn’t as bad as it seems. Getting into bed is another story.
The sleeping bag is on the mattress. Put anything personal and valuable in the bottom of the sleeping bag. Visitors can keep an overnight bag upstairs in the lounge, but be careful what you leave there. So in the bag went my handbag, including my phone and the camera. Then comes getting undressed. First the boots. This is where you realise you’ve got to step onto the bed because you ‘must not’ get your socks wet and everywhere is ice. Off comes the clothes down to the thermals. These you sleep in. The clothes join the valuables in the bag’s base.
Now, in socks and thermals, you need to get into the sheet. My other half referred to this as a giant pillowcase, and getting into it wasn’t easy. You’re trying to get into a sack on a wobbly base (the mattress) trying not to step on ice AND get you and the pillowcase into the sleeping bag. They had instructed us not to take the sheet until we were ready for bed because they’d get cold; we’re thinking they’ve got to be kidding: the sheet is already cold because we can’t get into the bed! We don’t see that it made a difference and think it would have been easier had the sheet-sack been inside the bag to begin with. In the demonstration, they told us that after you accomplish all this, you’d need to do some sit-ups to get warm. We weren’t the only one to say by the time you get into the bag, there’s no need to bother — you’re warm enough.
At last inside the sheet inside the sleeping bag, it’s shuffle around time, making sure the sleeping bag isn’t on the ice and that the hood part is up over your head. On goes the balaclava. Now we both tried to wear them, but I could not cover my nose. First, I could smell soap powder and the scent drove me crazy. Second, it just didn’t work for me; I didn’t feel I could breathe. We wore our own hats.
We snuggled down and got the bags zipped. Bedtime. The DH is asleep at once. In fact, all the men seemed to do this and had a good night — the women all decided it must be a ‘man thing’. I stared at the ship. I closed my eyes. Opened them, looked at the ship. Closed my eyes, opened ship, closed, opened ship… you get my drift. I could not sleep. They gave the sleeping bags out by size but where the DH seemed to have some shoulder room, I felt like a worm, cocooned, as if I would emerge as a butterfly come morning; and I reached a point where I couldn’t stand it. I wanted out, but leaping out into an icy room and giving up after ten minutes wasn’t really an option. We’d paid to do this. So the next best thing was to unzip my sleeping bag a bit, pull up the sheet, make sure my thermal was up to my neck, and the sides of the bag ‘around me’ and settle down. This time I fell asleep.
I woke up at 2, just knowing I needed to get up. Now the trick is not to go to the hassle of getting dressed. Put on your boots and coat and go off in your thermal gear. Decent enough. Back to bed. It’s a much simpler transition of off with the boots, off with the jacket, and back into the bag. As the sheet is already in place, there’s no problem.
We went back to bed and to sleep and the next thing I know, the DH is telling me it’s a quarter past six. I’ve apparently been snoring. Whether he did, I don’t know. There’s been a lot of snoring in the rooms and if you can get to sleep in the snow hotel, it’s apparently a good rest.
It’s a crazy thing to do when you think about it, but we’d thoroughly recommend it… the once. There’s really no reason ever to do it again. Still it was an experience we’ll never forget, not to mention incredibly artistic and stunning.