If you are looking for a special experience on the mountain, you should treat yourself to an extraordinary night in the snow. Spending the night in an igloo hotel is a big trend that can now be found in numerous ski regions in the Alps. In this article, SnowTrex presents a selection of these extraordinary accommodations in the snow.
What are Igloo Hotels?
Sub-zero temperatures in the double digits, beds made of crystal-clear ice, reindeer skins serving as mattresses and two thick thermal sleeping bags – welcome to the ice hotel! For those who love the cold and long for an extraordinary holiday experience, such an unusual accommodation is just the ticket. Variety is guaranteed here as the ice hotels look different every year. Every autumn, thousands of tonnes of ice have to be transformed into a gleaming white palace. Tens of thousands of tonnes of snow and ice from neighbouring rivers are needed for this. Wheel loaders and snow cannons are used to apply the snow to steel girders, which can be removed after two days. This construction method is used to build several adjoining tunnel-like vaults from which the individual rooms branch off. The ice hotels usually open around 1 December. The rooms are only habitable until April, because soon after that the hotel thaws out due to the outside temperatures being too high. The finishing touches are added to the rooms by artists who specialise in working with ice – decorations of shimmering violet-blue ice crystal sculptures make the wintry, dreamy atmosphere in these icy hotel rooms perfect. The oldest known ice hotel, located about 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, even offers its guests a church made of ice. However, these hotels of a special kind can also be found in many a well-known place in the Alps.
Alpine Igloo Village in Brixental
In the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental, skiers can spend the night directly on the piste in a 5-star igloo hotel. Here, guests enjoy an aperitif at the large ice bar before moving on to an evening programme with a fondue meal or a short tour of the Ice Land ice art exhibition on the piste. The huge plus of the igloo village is that it is not far from the Hochbrixen gondola station in the middle of the ski area.
Igloo Lodge in Allgäu
The “adventure in the great outdoors” is what Matthias Lenz and his crew at the Igloo Lodge near Oberstdorf promise. They call themselves “Iglooites,”, creating igloos in the classic block construction method of the Inuit. There is room for up to 30 overnight guests in the rustic dwellings. Here, too, is a theme every season according to which the igloos are carved out of the ice. Overnight guests can choose from various packages for groups of 4, couples and activities such as “skifoxing” or the “Flying Penguin” experience.
White Lounge Igloo Hotel in Mayrhofen
On the Ahorn mountain, at an altitude of 2,000 m above Mayrhofen, lies the noble version of the igloo hotel. The White Lounge is the official chill-out area on the Ahorn plateau, which can only be reached by gondola lift and subsequent hike along the Panorama Trail. Thanks to the lounge’s exposure, guests can enjoy a great view, hours of sun in a deck chair and drinks from the igloo bar. There are seven igloo suites to choose from for overnight stays, ranging from “Basic” to “Romantic.” Guests are offered the full programme with a guided igloo tour, dinner, torch-lit hike and campfire, stargazing and a final drink at the snow bar.
Snow Village in Hochötz
Austria’s first igloo village is located at an altitude of 2,000 m in the Hochötz ski region in Ötztal. The settlement resembles huge mounds of snow, but is a self-contained work of art made of snow and ice. The village consists of six 4-person igloos and 8 couples’ suites for two people each. For a little luxury in this mountain idyll, there is a warm-up room and a sauna. You won’t find electric light here, but candles create an extraordinary atmosphere. A candlelight evening, igloo-building workshops and a lounge for skiers who can drop by during the day and rest on sheepskin make the offer in the snow village extremely appealing.
In the snow village, you can choose from various accommodation options. For example, there is an igloo-building workshop with an overnight stay in a 4-person igloo, or a candlelight event with romantic dinner and an overnight stay in a 2-person igloo. Staff incentives or group excursions are also possible. Of course, you can also ski downhill in the Hochötz ski area or walk at high altitude in the Ötztal outdoor obstacle course.
Igloo Villages on the Zugspitze & More
The trend towards igloo villages is so great that there are now organisers who construct the icy settlements in various ski areas for the “igloo season” between December and March. One of them is on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. In the middle of the Zugspitzplatt ski area, 20 igloos will be set up for overnight stays. The sleeping igloos and other “rooms,” such as the kitchen and a bar, will be decorated according to a specific art theme. Luxurious highlights are hot tubs and a sauna, which are set up in the icy igloo walls. In addition to Germany, Swiss ski areas, such as Zermatt and Davos-Klosters, are especially on the igloo tour schedule.
Igloo Village Kühtai
The Igloo Village in Kühtai promises romance, fascination, relaxation and events in the middle of the ski area. It is located at 2,020 m above sea level in Austria’s highest winter sports resort. Overnight stays here are an experience in a class of their own. 12 igloo suites are available in the little village of ice and snow. In addition, there is a dining igloo, a multifunctional igloo and a side building that houses the heated sanitary facilities with showers. The icy dwellings are lovingly designed on the inside: each individual igloo has been decorated with beautiful snow carvings, which create a particularly romantic atmosphere when illuminated by coloured LED lights. To ensure that no one has to freeze, the beds are equipped with insulated, waterproof mattresses and real sheepskins. Each guest receives a freshly laundered inner sleeping bag for the warm winter down sleeping bags. There is a constant temperature of 0 to 1 degree Celsius in the “hotel room”. A gondola ride is not absolutely necessary when arriving as the village is quite easy to reach by car or public transport.
Additional warmth from the inside is provided not only by the welcome schnapps, but also by the hearty cheese fondue served in the dining igloo in the evening. A nightcap can also be enjoyed at the igloo bar. The Igloo Village team also organises leisure activities on site, such as a guided evening snowshoe hike followed by tobogganing fun or even an igloo-building workshop.
After a night in the midst of ice and snow, you can warm up with a hearty breakfast in the morning, which is served in the warm rooms of the neighbouring 4-star hotel “Alpenrose”. The perfect start to an eventful day on the mountain – whether you’re in the nearby ski area with its 44 kilometres of pistes, in the approx. 35 km distant metropolis of Innsbruck, on the Kühtai cross-country trails or the winter hiking trails in the surrounding area. With its central location, the village is the perfect starting point for any number of exploratory tours.
Sleeping in Wooden Barrels
Don’t want to go for the icy igloo after all? Winter camping has established itself as a less frosty alternative for ski holidays. Many ski areas have campsites not far from the lift stations. If you don’t want to travel with your own van or don’t have one at all, the Camping Resort Zugspitze in Grainau offers suitable accommodation. At the 5-star campsite run by Werner Wilhelm, there are wooden sleeping barrels, which boast special designs and contain cosy bunks with double beds, extendable table and benches, electricity and heating. The campsite also offers a relatively high level of luxury with a restaurant, bistro, alpine spa, sauna, enoteca and sun terrace.
Usually, a stay in an ice hotel lasts no longer than 1-2 nights – not only because of the comparatively high costs for a night in the ice, but also because most visitors will long for a soft bed after the second night at the latest.
Build Your Own Igloo
If you live in a snowy area or if there is only enough money for the lift pass this time, you can also build your own igloo.
The first variation is the solid construction method. To make the igloo stable, you first need snow blocks. The blocks should roughly have the following dimensions: 40 cm high, 60 cm wide, 50 cm deep and be bevelled beyond that, as the rings of the snow blocks then become narrower towards the top and form a dome. The cuts are best adjusted with a snow knife. The windows can be made from sheets of ice – perhaps there is a lake nearby from which the ice can be obtained. When the igloo is finished, the entrance area is dug out as a wind/cold tempurature barrier and vaulted over with snow blocks.
When building a formwork igloo, you start by piling up a mound of snow. Then two holes are dug about 20 cm above waist height, as well as a connecting tunnel that will later serve as an entrance. Then three to five people stand in one of the two holes with a waterproof tarpaulin that they hold over their heads. At the same time, they press their buttocks against the inner wall of the hole. Snow continues to be heaped and compacted onto the igloo and over the tarp from the sides. This is done until the igloo’s snow cover is self-supporting. Then the tarp can be removed and people can crawl out of the inside of the igloo through the tunnel to the outside. Finally, the inside of the igloo is scooped out. In this way, the walls reach a thickness of 80 to 150 cm.
The spiral construction method is used when things have to happen quickly. For this igloo, a block thickness of approx. 20 cm must be sufficient. Here, snow bricks are leaned against each other in an ascending spiral. Note that the two lower corners rest on the row below and the upper corners on the previous row of snow bricks. Finally, a brick is placed over the hole and cut to fit – this completes the igloo.