Craving a winter adventure guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience that will also (pardon the puns) earn you an avalanche of cool points? Then pack your thermals for an overnight stay in an igloo or ice hotel.
Believe it or not, bedding down in such frosty accommodations is a trend that has warmed up considerably over the years. The opening of ICEHOTEL, in Sweden's Lapland region, two decades ago has been followed with the construction of other icy lodging options, mainly in Europe. Most are built seasonally and melt in the spring.
While novelty is certainly part of the draw for these snow-centric spots, several have created a following among the ski set because of their proximity to the pistes: Guests can strap on their skis and hit the slopes long before the lifts have even opened.
But even if skiing isn't on your agenda, an ice or igloo hotel offers a unique experience on its own: Though conditions aren't as harsh as they might sound, you're not likely forget trekking to the bathroom in pre-dawn, sub-freezing temps. Here, a few places where you can make like an Eskimo for a night or two. And to save some of your (extremely) cold, hard cash (some properties don't accept credit cards), consider weeknight stays.
Schneedorf Igloo Village, Austria (www.schneedorf.com/en): This recently opened property above the resort town of Sölden offers 18 four- and two-person igloos, with breathtaking views of the nearby Alps, Austrian touches such as a cheese fondue dinner, and the highest sauna in Europe. Romantic adventurers can indulge in the Candlelight Night in one of the two-person 'gloos, which also include champagne and (appropriately enough) a plate of cold cuts. There's also an igloo-building workshop.
Iglu-dorf, various European locations (www.iglu-dorf.com): In 1996, founder Adrian Günter, an avid snowboarder and photographer, built his first igloo in the Swiss resort town of Scuol in order to get a head start on the slopes, as well as have unfettered vistas for his photos. Fifteen years later, and Günter has a mini-empire of 'gloos throughout the Swiss Alps. Every spring, seven villages in Switzerland, Germany, and Andorra are carved right out of the snow until they melt in the spring. In the interim, guests enjoy winter-wonderland-y digs, with in-igloo hot tubs and expedition sleeping bags. (Photo above courtesy of Iglu-dorf.)
Alpeniglu Kitzbühel, Austria (www.alpeniglu): A stay at this charming, seven-igloo village will have you feeling like you're starring in a frosty little fairytale. Highlights of the experience: a torch-lit hike through nearby forest, a fondue dinner at a table made of ice, and hands-on help with ice sculpting. You'll bed down in expedition sleeping bags on reindeer skins, and wake up to a hearty breakfast before heading back down the mountain.
And if a ready-made 'gloo sounds just a bit too cushy for all you do-it-yourself adventurers, check out REI's igloo-building kit and construct your very own ice domain.
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