The Kirkenes Snow Hotel is constructed entirely from manmade snow and ice each year (regular snow is too fluffy), and is only five years old. Anna led us into the Norway’s largest ice bar inside the Snow Hotel “Igloo” and handed out a cold crowberry shot, known locally as “Rudolf’s Revenge,” and laced with vodka. (A crowberry is a blueberry-like fruit that grows on dwarf evergreens.) We stood, oohing and aahing at ice sculptures of dogs and reindeer, surrounded by a blue glow from lighting (…ooh…don’t look at the pretty blue lights….,) and New Age Music. Two tunnels leading from the bar area towards individual suites added to the supernatural, or paranormal, feeling. (This was definitely not Glenview, Illinois.)
Anna told about the Snow Hotel (information in videos), assigned room numbers to each couple, invited us to walk around, look at the different suites, and take photos before continuing the Snow Hotel tour. Each suite had a different theme along with ice sculptures. Some suites hold 3-4 persons so don’t think you must be a “couple” to visit; there’s plenty of room for friends to share. The temperature inside was a “toasty” -4 Celsius/24 Fahrenheit but who knows what it was outside with a strong wind whipping across open areas.
You cannot visit the Snow Hotel without paying a 100 NOK entrance fee. Activities, at an additional cost, are: Dog sledding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, catching crabs, snowmobiling that includes rides to see the Northern Lights. No entrance fee if you are spending the night.
Mattresses are on platforms surrounded by ice with an ice headboard, ice floors, ice sculpture, ice everything. Think cozy igloo with curtains hanging from the oval doorway for a little privacy. (Not that we intended to remove a single article of clothing from bodies and get naked.) Our room was dominated by a huge swan ice carving. “Vat? A Svan?”
Anna led us outside for a walk to the warm room with two couches, coffee maker, bathrooms, two big changing rooms (one men, one women), sinks and showers. Each had a door that led into a communal sauna.
Mike took over and led the way upstairs from the warm room into another room filled with hanging sleeping bags, boots, gloves, woolen socks, woolen hats, clothing for snowmobiling and dog sledding. Guests are encouraged to leave backpacks, and battery operated objects here overnight to keep batteries from freezing. Mike also suggested leaving cell phones or they would be deader than a doornail in the morning.
Next, the Gabba Restaurant where Anna continued with critical information on surviving a night in the Snow Hotel; how to use the sleeping bags, and what to do when ready for bed.
Her instructions were: ”Go and pee. Go and pee some more. Enter room. Take small reindeer skin and lay it across the mattress. There are bigger reindeer rugs on the ice floor on either side of the bed. Take off boots, leave on reindeer rug. Take outer garment (North Face jackets, for example), and lay that on the reindeer skin. Take clean sleeping sheet, step in, pull it up. Pick up sleeping bag and stuff yourself wearing sleeping sheet into it. Wear long underwear only, wool socks, a baclava* and wool hat. Put clothing in bottom of sleeping bag to keep warm for morning.** Jump up and down or run in place inside your sleeping bag to build up some warmth. Plop yourself into the bed, zip up and make like a “mummy” or reindeer sausage. Go…to…sleep.”
* There were no baclavas in the equipment room when we looked, and believe me, we looked everywhere
** Done that for years. There’s nothing like smelly trekking socks in the bottom of your sleeping bag to wake you up in the morning.