The 411 Below Freezing: How Ice Hotels Work

'Hotel Impossible' goes north for a chillcation.

Cruising through the channel guide looking for something to keep you occupied in that sleepy week between Christmas and New Year's Eve? We've got you covered with Chillcation, a block of all-new specials about all-things frozen. 

In Ice Hotels ... Not Impossible, Hotel Impossible host Anthony Melchiorri bundles up and heads to the Arctic Circle to find out how the coolest spaces in the world prepare for guests each winter.

But how exactly does one build and maintain an ice hotel? Here are a few quick facts to get you warmed up for Ice Hotels, airing Monday, Dec. 26 at 9|8c. 

It starts with an ice harvest.

ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden—which will welcome more than 50,000 visitors this year—begins life as a good old-fashioned frozen river. Each year, harvesters cut 6-by-3-foot, 2-ton building blocks of crystal-clear natural ice from the Torne. The good news is that the building materials are free. The bad news is that you have to build your hotel from scratch every year.

You don’t have to wrap yourself in reindeer hide to spend the night. 

Not every evening at an ice hotel begins with a pile of animal furs (though if that’s the experience you’re after, it’s not hard to find). Anthony Melchiorri beds down at ICEHOTEL in a balaclava and wool socks, on an insulated mattress with a fleece-lined sleeping bag—and sleeps like a baby. Many guests report that they sleep better in ice hotels than they do in conventional ones, thanks to the sound-muffling properties of the ice and snow in the walls. 

Some “igloos” aren’t made of ice at all. 

At Finland’s Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, beds in 65 glass igloos sit directly beneath the Aurora Borealis, created when particles from the sun collide with gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Visitors enjoy that natural masterpiece through thermal panes (which prevent heat from escaping the igloos—and won’t frost over and spoil the view).

Above the Arctic Circle, the LED is king.

Ice-hotel decorators love LED lights for the candy-colored array of artistic opportunities they provide. Ice-hotel architects, in turn, love them because they deliver light with almost no heat (which is crucial when your hotel is perishable). 

Luxury is accessible if you go far enough north.

King crab rings in at about $130 per pound in most of the world. Guests at the Kirkenes Snowhotel in Norway, on the other hand, get to eat what they catch (after it’s steamed for about 10 minutes). Anthony’s ready to transplant their operation to Times Square in New York City, but the commute would be awfully rough.

The fanciest ice bucket in the world couldn’t be simpler.

ICEHOTEL’s two most decadent ice suites—either of which can be yours for $1,000 a night—feature champagne niches chiseled right out of the wall. The hotel’s designers have been creating luxury in the north for 26 seasons now, and they know their stuff: The ice itself is the most magical tool at their disposal. 

Tune in at 9|8c on Monday, Dec. 26 to head north with Anthony on Ice Hotels...Not Impossible

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