The Quebec Ice Hotel is Not to be Missed: A Brief History of the Hotel de Glace

If you’ve never had a chance to get a tour of the famed Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, we highly recommend adding it to your list of things to do during your next trip to Quebec. The must-see attraction, which is rebuilt each winter out of ice and snow, is the only hotel of its kind in North America and made entirely of snow and ice. The architectural feat is truly breathtaking with its surreal ice suites and cathedral ceilings measuring up to 7 meters (23 feet). It includes an ice bar with a capacity of 300 people, a restaurant, a Nordic area with hot tubs, a sauna, and even an ice Chapel used for weddings every winter.

Recently the organizers dropped by the Prometour offices to provide us with more information on the hotel. Below is a brief history of the attraction along with their 2018 promo video. Enjoy!


From the Press Release

A Brief History of the Ice Hotel

For as long as he can remember, Jacques Desbois, founder of the Hôtel de Glace, has been passionate about winter and the snow. In 1996, he established La Piste Desbois, an ecotourism company operating in the design of interactive igloo villages. Nicknamed Mr. Igloo, Mr. Desbois has worked hard to ensure the reputation of his company. Unique in Canada, La Piste Des bois was involved in numerous festivals, cities, and organisms over the years. For example, Québec Winter Carnival, the Fête des Neiges de Montréal and the Musée de la civilisation of Québec took advantage of the expertise of La Piste Desbois.

In 1996, Jacques Desbois read an article on the Ice Hotel of Sweden. Immediately, an idea came to his mind: “If they can do it in Sweden, we can do it here in Québec, the snow capital of the world,” he exclaimed. He decided to pack his bags and fly to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, to meet the creators of this magical structure with it’s touristic potential. After his trip and feasibility studies, Jacques Desbois looked for good partners that would help him reach his goal. Yvon Guérard and Michel Mordret were immediately fascinated by the ide and possibilities of the Hôtel de Glace and decided to join the team.

Since the beginning of their association, it was obvious that the imagination and devotion were essentials to complete this project. During the four years that were needed to start this unusual project, many obstacles occurred. The promoters had the tenacity to demonstrate the technical and financial feasibility of the project.

In 2001, Québec, Canada, and America discovered this incredible attraction recognized around the world. Erected for the first time at the Montmorency Falls, the Hôtel de Glace was then built at the Station Touristique Duchesnay for 9 years and moved again in 2011 on the old site of the Québec Zoo.

In 2016, the Hôtel de Glace became a distinctive component in the winter offer of the largest recreational tourism development project in Eastern Canada by joining the operations of Valcartier Vacations Village. In the process of becoming a four-season resort Valcartier Vacations Village is giving an extra dimension to its global offer while expanding its customer base.

Over the years, the unique Hôtel de Glace has become one of the most famous images of the Canadian winter. As a leader in the tourism industry for the region, the province and the entire country, the Hôtel De Glace now welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world every year.

Click on the image below to see a full 360-degree virtual tour.

The 360 images were produced by Luc Villeneuve

Construction and Realization

Early December, when the temperatures are below zero for a week period, the construction of the Hôtel de Glace begins. During 6weeks, approximately 50 people will work on the realization of the Hôtel de Glace. Thirty workers are on the production (or the Expertise team) and fifteen sculptors decorate this masterful creation. Employees in all the team of snow, ice, machinery or artists, everybody works intensely, day and night, on the site until late January. To celebrate the last construction phase, a Grand Opening Night is organized each year.

The raw material of the Hôtel de Glace is the snow. This snow is made on-site with snowblowers when the temperature is under 5°C. More than 30000 tons of snow is needed to build the Hôtel de Glace. Churned several times, this snow particularly humid and dense will become hard as ice after a short period. Thus, we can not take the snow coming from the sky because this snow is too dry and airy to be used.

The first step in the construction of the Hôtel de Glace is the foundation of the “deck”, in other words, the floor of the hotel. This deck of 5 feet thick must be very hard and very strong to support the heavy weight of the Hôtel de Glace (3000m2).

Video courtesy Hôtel de Glace

The next step is to blow the snow on the molds made of metal. These molds of various sizes are shaped in an arch or in a dome. Once blown, the snow is retained by a wooden wall to strengthen the structure. Depending on the temperature, awaiting a period of about three days helps to solidify the structure. After that waiting period, the molds are removed and then moved elsewhere according to the architectural plan. Once a section is completed, we move on to another and soon. Removing the molds is quite easy because each of them is mounted on jacks that can go down 30 cm. In addition, the molds have a ski base that allows the tractor to remove them by dragging them on the snow. Once completed, the walls have a base of 1.2 to 2.4m thick and the top of the archis75cm. The largest vaults of the Hôtel de Glace are over 7 min-height.

When a section is sufficiently achieved and that the molds have been removed, we bring in the ice blocks produced by Glace Frontenac. These ice blocks weigh 500 tons are mainly used to create the furniture (bar, night tables, chairs, etc.), columns, sculptures and ice glasses. Huge ice walls at the ends of some corridors are also made to let the light enter and to create magical effects.

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Facts about the Ice Hotel

The only ice hotel in America entirely made of ice and snow

500 tons of ice and 30 000 tons of snow

A surface of 3000 square meters (32,000 square feet)

Ceilings measuring up to 7 meters (23 feet)

44 sand rooms themed suites

A Nordic area with hot tubs and sauna under the stars

An ice bar with a capacity of 300 people

An ice chapel

A Grand Ice Slide for people of all ages

Over a million visitors since the opening in 2001, of which 55000 overnight guests

The Services

Several restaurants and bars for your meal

Guided tours for general public every day from 12 pm

Guided tours for groups of more than 20 people

Self-guided tours

Evening entertainment for overnight guests

Ice sculpting activity


Photo courtesy © Luc Rousseau.