After finishing up with the dog sledding covered in my last post, we walked around the facilities a little more, stopping to see all of the dogs and resting a bit before the actual Snowhotel program started. An important thing to note here is that there are two sides to this place:
- The Gamme cabins, which are heated and I’m sure provide amazing views via their panoramic windows
- The actual Snowhotel, comprised of ~20 rooms carved out of snow/ice connected by a long walkway, which ends at the ice bar.
We chose the colder option and booked a room in the Snowhotel. If we were going to make the trip up there, we were definitely going to make it worthwhile! This isn’t like checking in to a regular hotel, as the program is specific and has set times when you can be in your room. You also don’t drop your luggage off in your room on arrival, it’s shuttled from the small building at the entrance to the luggage room, located in the main building at the far end of the snowhotel and held there throughout your stay, but more on that later.
So how does this work? Well, at around 5pm, everyone staying in the Snowhotel met in Gabba restaurant near the dog sledding area to find that out! Upon arrival, we took a seat and were given a brief history of the facility, along with a basic timeline of events for the evening. Snowhotel guests pretty much do everything together, including eating dinner and breakfast, so we were all on the same schedule. While in Gabba, we also had the chance to cook more reindeer sausage for ourselves as a little pre-dinner snack. Yummy!
After finishing up in Gabba, we headed over to feed the reindeer. On arriving at the platform, we were all given some food and were able to reach over the fence to feed any that came our way. The reindeer knew what was coming, and were more than happy to take the food off our hands.
After the feeding, we had some time to walk through all the Snowhotel rooms, but having done this earlier in the day when no one else was in there, we used it as a little downtime before dinner, and just walked around outside a little more. Here are a few of the other rooms that I’d shot earlier in the day:
At dinner time, everyone met in the first floor dining room for the group dinner. We had a set table where the 20 or so of us staying in the Snowhotel sat. Now, one thing I’ve never mentioned here is that I’m not a seafood guy. Like at all. Before this trip, the last time I’d really eaten fish was well over 20 years ago. I knew going in to this trip that I’d likely be stuck eating seafood at least one, if not most nights on the trip, it’s the nature of being in a coastal country known for it. This was one of those night. On the menu:
- Reindeer carpaccio
- Arctic Char with potatoes
- Ice cream with caramel sauce
- Northern Light (hot cocoa with peppermint liquer – we ordered this as an extra)
It was all really good, including the fish. While I didn’t eat all of the char, I ate quite a bit of it, and was surprised at how good it tasted. Congrats to the Snowhotel on getting me to like a seafood dish!
After dinner we had a bit of free time before bed, so we walked around the complex a bit, followed by a visit to the ice bar. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a bar made entirely out of ice. Only being open for an hour, we got there pretty early, and found our bartender all set up and ready to serve. With Bayley having just turned 21, she partook in a few drinks with me. We opted for a 4-shot package, where he poured Bayley and I each 4 different shots, telling a story with each. I really wish I could remember those stories, but no such luck. I can say that it was pretty fun, and included 5th shot at no charge, with him also giving Bayley a 6th “birthday” shot for free. Drinking at an ice bar was an awesome experience, one we all enjoyed and won’t soon forget. Our excellent bartender made it that much better 🙂
I almost forgot, when you’re done with each drink, you have to clean up after yourself, which consists of smashing your shot glass (also made solely of ice) on the bar. Nice touch :). Here’s a little Boomerang of Bayley “cleaning up” after one of her shots!
When it came time for bed, the real fun began. First, you head in to the luggage room and grab what you want to change in to. One key thing here is that you do not want to overdo it with what you wear. My dog sledding guide had warned me that when she stayed in the hotel, she overdressed and was hot most of the night, so I just grabbed a short sleeved t-shirt, and my flannel pajama pants. After changing, we each grabbed a sleeping kit, which consisted of a thermal sleeping bag, sheets (basically a bag made out of sheets that you put yourself in), a balaclava, and some heavy wool socks. Here are a couple of shots of the area where the kit items are, the sleeping bags, and the showers:
At that point, everything else you have goes back in to your luggage, and you head to your room with your sleeping kit and boots to get ready for bed. Once you arrive at your room, it’s a matter of getting into the sheet “bag” (felt like I was getting ready for a potato sack race), and then into the sleeping bag. This part was harder than I expected. After laying down in the sleeping bag, it took a lot of effort to get into the sleeping bag properly to ensure you could get it zipped up and cinched around your head properly. Once complete, however, we were ready for bed. Here’s a 360 degree look around the room with us all bundled up and laying down:
I slept pretty good most of the night, and that sleeping bag definitely keeps you warm, even though you’re laying on a bed carved from ice! The most common question we’ve been asked is: what happens if you need to get up during the night to go to the bathroom? Well, you get out of your bags, put your shoes on, and walk the hall (inside, but still in the snowhotel) to the main building. Sure, you may get a little cold in the hall, but once you’re back, it’s into the warmth of the sleeping bag once again.
The next morning, if you’re still asleep at 7:30, a woman comes in ringing a bell to wake you up, as you still have a schedule to keep. This is where I can see it getting pretty busy, too. Once awake, you grab your sleeping kit and make your way back to the main building. At this point you’re basically getting ready for breakfast, and yes, there are showers with warm water as shown in a previous picture, but when the hotel is full, it could easily feel crowded in here, as the luggage area and bathrooms are really only sized for 4-7 people max in my opinion. It wasn’t really bad for us, as some people had gotten up earlier, and some were still making their way up the hall.
After getting dressed, it was time for breakfast. We all headed to the same little restaurant we’d eaten dinner at, just that this time with the sun up we could see the amazing view out the panoramic window. Breakfast itself was pretty good, with a selection of breads, meats, cheeses, and some eggs and bacon. All delicious!
Once breakfast is over, that’s pretty much it for a single night program in the Snowhotel. You’re still welcome to make use of the facilities until departure, and with some time before we had to head to the ship in Kirkenes, we made use of it. Another nice thing at the Snowhotel is the use of the snow equipment. You can take out snowshoes and/or cross-country skis at no additional cost, so after walking around and petting the dogs again, complete with a visit to see the 3-4 week old puppy, we went snowshoeing! We put some of their cold weather gear on, grabbed the snowshoes, and stopped at the entrance building to see where the trail was. I admit we didn’t stay out long, but we got quite the workout. It’s a hilly trail, and not being used to walking in these things, we were all exhausted after about 45 minutes or so.
After we got back and returned the gear, we relaxed in Gabba for a few minutes before it was time to head out on our bus. Looking back on our time at the Snowhotel, it couldn’t have provided a better start to the trip. We loved every second of it, and if you’re headed to Norway during the winter, I highly recommend a trip up here, it’s well worth the money and will provide memories that last a lifetime!
In my next post, I’ll be covering our (very) brief time on Hurtigruten’s MS Nordnorge, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy a few more pics of the Snowhotel!