When you think of Quebec winter and snow, you normally think of a big comfy lodge with a couch you can sink into, a big fireplace, hot toddy, and lots of flannel. But I don’t like to do the expected, so instead of staying in a big cozy lodge for my winter adventures in Quebec, I instead opted for the unique, rustic, unusual, scary, and some would say just plain weird accommodations around Quebec.
I normally say that people don’t go to a destination to experience a hotel, but in this case, I may be wrong! Each of these places provided such a unique experience that you may go to Quebec just to sleep there!
Note: Due to a few things outside of my control, like flights and some maintenance, I didn’t actually get to stay at all of these places, but I did go visit the ones I was unable to sleep at.
Intriguing Quebec Winter Accommodations
Ice Hotel –Hôtel de Glace
Creating the Hotel de Glace
This process starts each year in December and it takes 50 people 6 weeks to build. It normally tops out at 32,000 square feet and it made entirely of ice (500 tons) and hard-packed snow (30,000 tons). The structure is created with a mold. A special mixture of water and snow is packed on and around the mold until it freezes and then the mold is pulled out and suddenly you have a section of building! They have to do a small section at a time with the mold which basically created the Great Hall. The hall even has curves and turns in it all created from the mold process. This is also where you will find a number of the intricate ice sculptures and snow wall carvings. Each April the structure is completely destroyed and they start over again next winter! It really is an engineering marvel, so if you are the type of person who loves to visit cool engineering sights, then don’t miss this!
Sleeping at the Hotel de Glace
After you go through the Great Hall, you’ll come to the rooms; each one uniquely designed. There are suites that include a bigger room and some even have fireplaces. However the fireplaces are just for looks, not heat is actually emitted…boo.
However, when you stay overnight at the hotel you get all of the tools you need to stay warm, and it starts with orientation. There you learn all about how to dress for sleeping (use dry, light and synthetic clothing which has not been worn during the day). You’ll also learn about the sauna garden that is at your disposal to warm up your body before hopping in the arctic sleeping bag (rated at -22F) to doze off in your ice room. Don’t worry, you aren’t just sleeping on a block of ice, you actually have a nice, thick mattress that sits on top of the ice block bed. And if it’s just too cold for you, your Ice Hotel room actually also comes with a real hotel room, so you can bail out and go to your normal hotel room nearby too. However, if you do everything right and wear the right, dry clothes, don’t worry – you’ll stay toasty warm.
Sadly, due to a delayed flight, I had to forfeit my stay at the ice hotel, but I did go and tour it the next day. The Hotel de Glace is open to the public for tours all day until 8 p.m. when the guests take their rooms.
Sleeping with Wolves
Head north from the Ice Hotel in Quebec City and go where the snow is even more plentiful, Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean! Here you’ll find a number of other unique winter lodgings like Aventuraid; a unique overnight wildlife experience.
My little A-frame chalet was toasty warm when I went inside; the woodstove bellowing out heat in a welcoming way. The cabin was simple and cute. A little sink (no plumbing), hot plate, bed downstairs, table, and then a ladder that led up to the loft where there was another bed. The lighting was by solar and there was a shared kitchen, bathroom, and shower space in a bigger building about 30 feet away. But the most important part of the chalet was the windows. The windows were what gave me a view of my neighbors, an Arctic wolfpack.
Aventuraid is a tour company that specialized in dog sledding, snowshoeing, canoeing, and wolf encounters. You might find this combination strange, but as the owner, Gilles, explained to us “When you do dog sledding, you are fascinated by wolves.” Some people are bird lovers, Gilles is a wolf lover. His objective with the park is to show wildlife in their natural state. “It’s not a zoo, it’s an observation center,” he states.
You can observe the wolves a number of ways. The 3 wolf packs are enclosed by fences, so the first thing I did was get my camera and take a walk in the deep snow around the perimeter of the large fenced-off area. As I walked around the fence-line, the wolves would lurk behind you and stop when you stopped. They never got close, and many times they would disappear, but you always felt like you were being watched – in a slightly creepy way.
Gilles also offers a contact activity with the wolves in which people are able to go inside the enclosure (only if the wolves are in a good mood according to Gilles), and spend time interacting with them. It’s a strange feeling to have them growling and fighting among themselves as you stand in the middle of the pack; they are powerful animals. Few people have the chance to put their hand in their thick, coarse fur but for those who do – it’s a beautiful experience.
And finally, you can stay overnight at the little A-Frame Chalet basically sleeping right next to the wolves. It’s sort of like having your own little, warm blind to hide inside while you observe the wildlife outside. as I lay there in my bed trying to sleep, I realized I could hear the wolves walking around; their paws crunching in the snow. I sat up in the dark and looked out the window above my bed. Thanks to the full moon, the white snow was lit up as if there was a light on in the forest. I could easily see some of the wolves outside my window. I watched as they ran around together, played, ate, and howled. Before I knew it, I had been sitting there watching for over an hour, mesmerized by their every move and interaction.
You can have dinner catered to you in the shared building as part of the overnight ‘sleep with wolves’ package. Breakfast is also included in the morning.
Igloft Winter Glamping
If like me, you love wide open spaces and desolate landscapes, then maybe you’d like to sleep in the middle of an ice desert. What’s that, you’ve never heard of an ice desert, well…that’s because I sort of made it up. But that’s what it feels like when you sleep out on frozen Lac-Saint-Jean in the middle of winter in your little Igloft. The lake is about 27 miles long and 15 miles wide – and the winds howl across the flat iced-over lake. Sounds like a perfect place to sleep – doesn’t it?!
Hugues Ouellet, of Equinox Adventure, is one of the visionaries of the igloft; a small tiny home-esque building that sits out in the middle of Lac-Saint-Jean. He describes it as “a loft and igloo of modern times.” Thanks to the Igloft, it is possible to stay in this unique geography. It is a real immersion in a polar environment with a hotel comfort.
The little structure is small but mighty; it even floats just in case the ice decides to crack beneath you! It is equipped with everything you need for a short stay; a futon/bed, small kitchen, a little toilet area, a pop-up table and fold up chairs, plus a little wood stove that looks more like a Barbie stove! The igloft is full of windows and even a skylight so that you can get a great view of that ice desert and of the stars as you sleep.
Upon arrival, guests receive a starter kit/manual containing all info you need to stay overnight. They also must attend a mandatory meeting for 30 minutes that ensure you’ve gone through the material. Next, they provide you with your food for the night, they give you snowshoes, and a sled to pull your things; you are now ready to hike out to your igloft accommodation located less than one kilometer from the shore. My advice is to make sure you bring a few bottles of wine to really enjoy your stay!
Stay in the Igloft on Frozen Lac-Saint-Jean
You can find more information on renting the igloft here. They are expanding their ‘fleet’ next winter! Plus – they also have a summer one that floats on the lake that is completely sold out. The iglofts will work in the winter or summer.
Imago Yurt Village
If the other Quebec winter lodging options were just a little too extreme for you, here’s one that is slightly more normal – a winter stay in a yurt. That’s right – a colorful yurt that could withstand even the Mongolian winters! My blue yurt named Oslo was nestled back in the trees. As I pulled my sled with my suitcase in it to the entrance I could see smoke coming out of the chimney – a welcoming sight on the cold night.
The 16-foot yurt can sleep up to 4 people, but I had this little gem all to myself. They’ve taken the typical Mongolian Yurt design and utilized every bit of space to make the place a cozy lofted accommodation. It packed a lot into a small space; 1 double bed and 1 single bed and a sofa bed, a deck, a compost toilet a sink, a fridge microwave corner, wifi, and a pellet stove. The beds were up a ladder in a loft area. The loft had a domed ceiling so you could gaze at the stars as you slept – it really was magical. Showers, toilets and running water are available at the separate building nearby.
This was my first time using a pellet stove. You use little wood pellets and just dump them in the top of the stove and they release and burn all night. It was so easy and it kept the entire yurt toasty warm all night. You can bring your own food to cook, or have dinner in the Village Imago Bistro-Bar like I did. Tip – get the poutine with steak – it was delicious! Imago village provides breakfast of fruit, brie bread, coffee, and juice in the morning for your yurt experience.
The yurt looks out over the Valin Mountains and even comes with a little deck. I only stayed one night, but I wanted to stay a week, it really was a unique, special little getaway in the woods! This is the perfect place for a relaxing winter getaway with so many things to do nearby.
As you can see, each of these unique places to stay in Quebec winter is worth making a special trip for. Or better yet, go for a week and stay in all of them like I did!
Stay in the Imago Yurt Village
Rent your very own yurt in the winter or summer at Imago Village here
Follow Sherry Ott @ottsworld