Isn’t „unique“ a fantastic word to work with? Considering that it defines this one singular, outstanding idea, object or place, hardly a description could be more adequate. The ICEHOTEL in northern Sweden does not claim to be the one and only specimen of its kind. What renders it solitary is that it is redesigned and skillfully recreated every winter afresh – from scratch. 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, embedded in an untouched environment dotted with thousands of pristine lakes and crossed by wild rivers, lies Jukkasjärvi. Every year, the remote village witnesses a fascinating spectacle repeating itself.
Using ice blocks hewn from the nearby Torne River, a new ICEHOTEL is being built to replace the previous one that a merciless sun has eventually melted into soggy soil. Designers, architects and a changing team of artists create yet another elaborate example of their „ephemerial collection“ – an installation made to survive – and be enjoyed – for a limited period of time. The ICEHOTELS’ short-lived existence only lasts as long as nature tolerates it.
“Here in Jukkasjärvi we live with Torne River as a natural part of everyday life. The river has created a gathering place – the name Jukkasjärvi derives from a Sámi word that means “meeting place by the lake”.
North of the Arctic Circle: Chilling out in the freezing cold
What had started off with an ice sculpting workshop in 1989, developed into a veritable art gallery (ARTic Hall) housed in an igloo constructed from ice and snow. But the unusual building proved its quality as an exhibition place not merely for sculpted art, but also became a popular venue for church services and film show cases. Prospects changed entirely, after a party of guests had asked permission to stay overnight – and were enthralled by the experience. Thus the idea for the ICEHOTEL – the first of its kind in the world – was triggered off.
Up till today, most guests decide to stay at the ICEHOTEL for one single night – spending the others at the adjoining cabins available all year round. Nature-friendly wilderness experiences are offered in the shape of skiing, husky sledding, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, fishing or the obvious: ice sculpting.
Respecting the environment
The ice harvested from the river in spring is kept in storage halls until utilised for building next year’s ICEHOTEL. Due to both sharing site, emissions are nil. The Arctic climate chills the storage halls naturally for most of the year. To cover for the remainder of the time, chilling facilities take over. From the re-use of energy they produce, the hotel profits as well.
„Ten seconds of water flow in Torne River are equivalent of 4,000 tons of ice – enough for four ice hotels.
ICEHOTEL is built of pure ice and snow, a generous loan from Mother Nature.
When it melts in spring, our loan is returned to the Torne River, and every part of the ICEHOTEL is gone.“
The header images shows the luxury suite “Tolackuntur”, designed by Javier Opazo and Cristian Winckler. It has been cropped to fit into the header frame. Photo credit: ©Paulina Holmgren.