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Guidelines to sleep at the Hôtel de Glace, step by step

Guests who stay at the Hôtel de Glace in Québec City generally have a good night’s sleep. Thanks to the peaceful and quiet environment, some even have their best sleep ever. To ensure a pleasant and toasty experience, guests should follow the instructions provided by their night guide. However, some guests may sleep poorly if they make mistakes or ignore the instructions given to them. As a former night guide at the Hôtel de Glace, I am sharing these guidelines and my tips with you to help you prepare for a comfortable and enjoyable stay in a magical ice room.

Many people fear getting cold, but the main challenge is actually avoiding getting too warm.

Most of this can be used if you’re doing winter camping. Similar experience, with less amenities and, depending on your point of you, more or less luxury.

Can you spot the mistakes on the illustration? Heads are not properly in the hood and collars are not tight.

Detailed instructions to enjoy your night at the Hôtel de Glace

Overall the goal is to remain dry inside the mummy sleeping bag provided by the hotel. Here are the full instructions, step by step:

  1. Eat well and drink in moderation, avoiding diuretic drinks such as beer and coffee. Don’t get drunk.
  2. Enjoy your evening. Hot tubs and saunas are not just for fun, they can also be used to warm up your body.
  3. Prepare yourself in your regular room by brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and drying your body thoroughly.
  4. Wear minimal clothing to reach the ice room and bring only what you need. This may include the clothes you will use to sleep (including an extra pair of dry socks). Leave unnecessary items such as your phone and watch behind, as this is an opportunity to disconnect from the internet and the passage of time. For example, I wear my flip flops, the dressing gown provided by the hotel, underwear, a neck warmer, and a hat. I bring an extra pair of clean and dry socks.
  5. Before you leave, be sure to visit the restroom. This is a critical step, so don’t forget it.
  6. When you arrive in the ice room, choose who will sleep next to the switch to turn off the light.
  7. Remove the sleeping bag from its dry bag and shake it to fill it with air for added insulation. Lay it out on the bed and open the zipper for easy access later. Place the liner inside the sleeping bag, with the opening on the same side. Keep the dry bag on the ground.
  8. Sit down on the bed and remove your boots, shoes, or flip flops. If you wear glasses, put them in your shoes rather than on the nightstand, as they may be stuck tomorrow. If you are wearing socks, take them off as well.
  9. The clothes you plan to wear in the morning should be kept warm. To do this, you can put them inside the sleeping bag at the bottom. If they are too large (such as a dressing gown or a jacket), just put them in the dry bag.
  10. At this point, you are in a -5˚C environment wearing a hat, neck warmer, and underwear. Nothing else. Your sleeping bag is next to you, and you hold your extra pair of clean and dry socks, as well as the extra base layers you took earlier. This is now a critical step: the most common mistake is to overdress. If you have too many clothes, you’ll overheat and start to sweat. This will make you wet, while the goal is to remain dry. This is why you have to wear as few layers as possible, and add more if necessary but later only.
  11. The exta clothes you planned to wear, just put them inside the liner. Including the extra pair of dry socks.
  12. Slip inside the liner placed inside the sleeping bag and make sure the hood of the latter is properly over your head.
  13. Turn off the light if you want. If you’re a gentleman, you can let your partner process step #14, then turn off the light and continue alone.
  14. Zip the sleeping bag and adjust the tightness of the hood around your head and the collar around your neck. The collar should be tight, but not to the point of strangling you. This is another critical step: if this is too loose around the neck, your sleeping bag won’t be able to properly keep the heat your body produces.
  15. Now is the typical time to turn your head and kiss your partner.
  16. That’s it, just close your eyes and have a good night. Don’t move, hold your breath for five seconds and you may hear your own heart. Yes, it’s that quiet. Now, you might find it a little unsettling to hear your heart, but don’t worry, you’ll fall asleep soon. You can choose to sleep on your back or on your side.
  17. Perhaps this isn’t over for you just yet. If you’re feeling cold, give your body some time to warm up your sleeping bag. If you’re still feeling chilly after a while, try adding an extra layer to keep warm. This is typically done starting with the feet thanks to the extra pair of dry socks mentioned earlier. Add more layers later if necessary. Do this gradually, so that you don’t get too warm too quickly.
  18. If you find yourself feeling overly warm and unable to remove layers, keep the collar of your sleeping bag tight, but unzip the bottom (by your feet) to regulate temperature. Adjust the opening as needed to achieve a comfortable level of warmth, while avoiding overheating.
  19. At some point during the night, you may need to use the restroom. Unzip your sleeping bag, fold it to retain its warmth, put on your shoes, and head outside to the heated porta potty. Trust me on this one: make sure to return to your ice room after using the restroom. It may be tempting to end the night in a regular room, but returning to the ice room will be worth it. Slip back inside your liner and sleeping bag, zip it up, and adjust the hood and collar tight. Close your eyes and relax. You’ll feel much better after using the restroom and returning to the warmth of your sleeping bag.
  20. When the employee gives you a wake-up call, take your time to stir from sleep. Put on some clothes, gather your belongings, and open the curtain to your ice room. The opération team will take care of packing up the sleeping bags after you went back to your regular room.
Typical mummy sleeping bag provided byt the Hôtel de Glace. Comes with a little pillow, and a liner. All are in the dry bag.

Extra tips to avoid common mistakes

  • Ban cotton; only wear wool, merino wool or some synthetic base layers.
  • Do not sleep with the socks you’ll use to reach the Hôtel de Glace. Bring another pair for that.
  • This is a sleeping experience, forget about… you know… or do that in the morning when you wake up (before the wake up call).
  • Do not zip sleeping bags together, they are not designed for this, you’ll both be cold.
  • Avoid scarfs, it’s not a good idea to sleep with that around your neck.
  • If you decide to bring your phone into your ice room, be aware that the battery will likely be drained by the morning. Putting your phone in your sleeping bag increases the risk of damaging it. A better option is to keep it in your boots for safekeeping.
  • It’s important not to cover your mouth and nose while sleeping in the ice room. The moisture you produce needs to be able to escape from your face. The tip of your nose may feel cold at first, but this sensation will pass. Don’t worry about it, and just focus on enjoying your experience in the ice room.
  • If you have any health problems, inform the Hôtel de Glace.
  • If you need help, it is useless to yell. Leave your room. There’s always someone at the welcome desk at the Hôtel Valcartier and somebody else directly on site at the Hôtel de Glace.
  • If you have any difficulty understanding these instructions or if the materials provided by the hotel are not helpful or if your partner isn’t reassured, don’t hesitate to ask your night guide for a demonstration. As a night guide, I conducted workshops with a real sleeping bag and I did that whole process several times each evening: they can do it too.
  • If you have kids, it is important to ensure that their sleeping arrangements are properly prepared before you attend to your own.

Essential packing list for a comfortable sleep at Hôtel de Glace

Pack these essentials for a comfortable sleep:

  • Warm hat (chase beanie or similar).
  • Neckwarmer.
  • Wool socks.
  • Underwear.

For added comfort, consider packing these extra items:

  • Balaclava (to replace the neckwarmer).
  • Thermal leggings.
  • Long sleeve thermal top.
  • Thin mittens.
  • Sweater made from a non-cotton material.

Ready to sleep at the Hôtel de Glace?

These detailed instructions may seem complex, but enjoying a night at the Hôtel de Glace is actually quite simple. Most of it is just common sense and logic. You’ll naturally understand what to do. These guidelines are provided simply to help guests prepare themselves appropriately and avoid making basic mistakes. Don’t worry, relax and enjoy your experience.