You can sleep in an igloo high above some of Europe’s most famous ski resorts, camp in a hi-tech tent designed with NASA technology or simply dig a hole in the snow (under expert supervision of course) and bed down in there.
Besides novelty value, there are other factors that can make the experience of sleeping on snow or ice very special.
“Most people are amazed by the beautiful art and the size of the igloo village. They did not expect it to be so big. Otherwise, they are stunned by the nature. When you can see the sunrise in the morning with nobody on the piste, this is just amazing,” says Géraldine Pucken of Iglu-Dorf, the award-winning company behind six igloo villages.
The location at the top of the slopes has the added bonus that, while the first skiers of the day staying in the resort below may be riding up on the first chairlift of the morning, you’re already up and ready to make first tracks down after a fresh snowfall.
And the art – specifically ice and snow sculptures – which Géraldine says are all around you in the public areas and suites of the hotels and villages, making them still more magical places.
Iglu-Dorf, Switzerland, Austria or Germany
One company has made a big success of the concept over the past decade or so. Iglu-Dorf (‘dorf’ meaning village) will give you a bed for the night high above the Swiss resorts of Davos, Engelberg, Gstaad and Zermatt, and in the Austrian Tyrolean resort of Kuhtai, or on the Zugspitz above Garmisch Partenkirchen in Germany.
You’ll find bedrooms filled with beautiful carvings and a bar and restaurant in the public area. However Igloo Villages have gone further by putting hot tubs in some luxury suites. Igloos have temperatures around freezing inside.
The location of the villages high above the resorts means you’re located in the perfect spot not only for star gazing but also right on the slopes to start your day.
Whitepod, Les Cerniers, Switzerland
If you like your camping a little more futuristic, Whitepod describes themselves as an eco-luxury camp and offers accommodation in NASA-tested hi-tech tents, or ‘pods’ which provide cosy accommodation (each has its own wood-burning stove), backed by luxurious catering in the neighbouring mountain chalet. Apart from comfort and quality, the onus is on eco-friendliness with natural and locally sourced products used throughout the operation wherever possible.
Whitepod operates Switzerland’s only private ski slope, with over 700m of vertical 7km of pistes, so you have it all to yourself! If you want more spacious skiing head to Champery in the Portes du Soleil ski area, about 30 minutes away.
Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Kakslauttanen, Lapland
This Arctic igloo village, 10km from the ski slopes of Saariselka, offers every type of accommodation – hotel, log cabins and a snow igloo along with ice bar and chapel. What’s different is the hotel also has a village of igloo shaped buildings with glass roofs where you can lie and look up at the night sky – hopefully starry –and if you’re lucky — filled with the northern lights too.
Snow Hole, Cairngorm, Scotland
If the thought of a prepared ice hotel or igloo room seems just too easy for you, then you could consider digging your own snow hole and sleeping in that. Mountain and Sea Guides (+44 (0)1520 744 394) offer three-day guided excursion on the Cairngorm Plateau above Aviemore in Scotland during winter months where you do just that.
Your guide will take you on a traverse of the Cairngorm Plateau, the highest, wildest, sub-arctic plateau in Britain. You’ll be shown how to construct your own snow hole where you’ll be able to keep warm at night in your sleeping bag and see by candlelight.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not you are new to the winter mountain environment, as everyone is able to learn new skills and two nights are spent in a snow hole which we dig out into a luxurious palace,” says Mike Arkley of Mountain & Sea Guides
The informal course also includes learning winter day and night navigation skills on the mountain, avalanche awareness, ice axe and crampon training as well as basic rope work and using snow anchors to improve personal security on steep ground.
The Alpeniglu Village, Tyrol, Austria
This is a comprehensive art ice village in the winter scenery of the Kitzbuehel Alps – that’s the Alpeniglu village which welcomes visitors of the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental resort in the Tyrol. The white village with its 18 igloos is located near the Hochbrixen mountain station and is easily accessible for skiers as well as pedestrians. It takes only 8 minutes to get up to the village by gondola.
You can stay the night in an igloo or just enjoy one of the “magical evenings” of food and music. You can complete your stay at the igloos, with a nightly torch walk through the winter forest under the stars. Then, enjoy a get-together around a romantic bonfire. Sleep in your own igloo suite, with a cozy warm sleeping bag, a high-quality snow-proof mattress and comfortable fur blankets.