A visit in the ICEHOTEL promises interesting memories of snow, dog sleigh rides, an amazing natural landscape and perhaps some aurora borealis to boot. You'll also get to see and experience art that only exists for one season, art that is meticulously planned and cut out of pure clean ice and sculpted with snow. For twenty five years, the original Swedish Icehotel has been constructed on the banks of Torne River, in Jukkasjärvi, shortly outside of Kiruna, and then when the summer sun arrives, it melts right back into the river. Above you can see this years grand entry being propped up, as snow will be used to construct the walls. Reborn like an ice phoenix ever year, this year is already extra special, as weddings, proposals, baptisms and anniversary celebrations are being planned both by the guests and the hotel itself, as this remote chilly getaway is quite the romantic spot. We spoke to the people who create this unique ice art to see how the creative process works here, making something that will melt has its advantages in exploring your creativity, Jens Thoms Ivarsson, Head of Design at ICEHOTEL, explains that it sets them free;
"There’s a great sense of freedom in working with a material that will disappear within a year, sometimes within hours. I used to work a lot in stone, which prompts you to ask yourself: Is this good enough? Because you know it’s going to be there for a long time. When working with ice, you can let your hair down. It doesn’t matter if gets a bit weird – even crazy – or just fun. It’s going to melt away." This years hotel will have 50 rooms, of which 19 are art suites built by 13 designers from all over the world. There will also be an Ice Church, an Ice bar and a theater shaped like a dome; called Aurora Hall.
Much of the creative process that the designers go through you'll recognize, there's tissue sessions, sketches, 3D renderings made, and a collaborative spirit in solving the technical or crafting issues that may arise. The sculpting of each room can take up to three weeks. This year you'll find a room with a life-sized crystal clear ice elephant in it, called "The elephant in the room", by Annsofia Mååg. The pieces of the elephant are being carved out of ice-blocks as you read this, while the walls are being snow-cannon blasted around it.
There's a certain irreverence that happens when artists design their rooms, Luca Roncoroni has planned a room of sheep dancing around the bed, the twist is that you really do sleep like a baby in this hotel due to the crisp clean air.
ICEHOTEL veterans Viktor Tsarski, from Belgium, and Wouter Biegelaar from the Netherlands, have with their learned experiences of the material begun to create rooms that can look like anything else. This year they want it to look like an old country manor, that has had all the furniture and walls draped in sheets in the off season. They call it "hibernate", and it's going to be as surreal as it is realistic.
Berlin-based AnnaKatrin Kraus from the United States and her German peer Hans Aescht’s plan is to create a forest of Gothic-like ice pillars, cocooning the suite and transforming it into an intimate ice cave.
Jose Carlos Cabello and Millan Javier Colomino are building something that looks like stepping inside a wormhole, calling it "Live your time". Like our lives on earth this room will be temporary, but for one night, you can sleep in a frozen moment.
Nicolas Triboulot and Laurent Grapin are creating something called the Eye Suite, which will use ice-blocks as both headboard and a acoustic enhancing dividing wall. This year, the ICEHOTEL will have two luxury suites with secured glass door, while the other rooms in the hotel have curtain doors, their own en-suite bathroom and private sauna. You're going to have to hurry to book either one of those for a night as they're going fast.
The snow & ice mix - a.k.a as "snice" here - is taken from the Torne river, famous for its crystal clear ice, and that water is now is also available as a beer. There are plans in the works right now to build a permanent icehotel, one that exists year round, alongside the one made out of ice. A solar powered underground frozen hotel, where visitors can catch both the summer midnight sun and the winter-fun. Yours truly posing below, in the "Tron" room, created by British designer Ben Rousseau and architect Ian Douglas-Jones. The ice-blocks had grooves carved out of them and energy efficient electroluminescent wire inserted, which lit up the room, and was built in record time - only thirteen days. 5000 tonnes of ice is carved out of Torne river in march each year to become part of the hotel the next winter. The hotel will open the 11th of December.
Top photo credit: Olof Lange. Bottom photo credit: Maria Sirvio - Full disclosure I'm not paid to promote the ICEHOTEL but as you can tell I'm a huge fan, as the project is close to my heart and my roots and I've visited it and stayed in it many times.