Gays Marry at IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
It was just after noon and the sun was setting. Seventy-two dogs bayed in the gloaming, as the horizon glowed a frosty blue. Everything was snow. We were nearly one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle where the temperature was minus fifteen degrees Celsius - and we were heading deeper into the tundra: to the IceHotel.
Most of us were urban dwellers, more accustomed to sirens and car alarms than to the sound of dogs panting as the musher urged them onward, through the snow and over the frozen Torne River. A brief safety demonstration had left us with the fear of losing a foot beneath the sled’s runners - or worse, being left behind in the vast expanse of endless white. Hold tight to each other, we’d been instructed. We were three to a dogsled, with one musher - and a twelve-dog team racing us across a winter wonderland.
A Winter White World Before Homo Sapiens
It was cold, freezing cold, no question about it - and we’d arrived in Kiruna, Sweden, after an overnight, transatlantic flight. From the plane, we’d looked down on topography that seemed otherworldly: a completely white winter world as it existed before the arrival of homo sapiens. And now we were in that white world, racing across the frozen river, cutting through the snowbanks and up and over hills - and soon, if this went on much longer, we’d start losing our extremities to frostbite.
Mercifully, halfway to IceHotel, deep in the wintry woods, there was a wilderness camp. Or rather a small octagonal wooden structure, the center of which was given over to a wood-burning stove. We crowded inside and sat on reindeer skins. There was hot lingonberry juice and reindeer stew (and vegetable stew for those of us who like Rudolph). Rarely has food tasted so delicious. More hot lingonberry juice, please.
But we were only halfway home - and so out into the daynight we returned, where the dogs bayed and cried, waiting to take us to our destination. Over the river and through the woods - to IceHotel. In the distance, we could make out a chimerical glow, a wintry mirage against the horizon. This was why we’d traveled nearly four thousand miles to the land of the Northern Lights, to Lapland, to Jukkasjärvi, home of IceHotel.
From a Small Igloo to Nearly 60,000 Square Feet
Now celebrating its 21st year, IceHotel has, in its twenty years, expanded from a small igloo to the world’s largest ice and snow hotel, with this year’s version encompassing nearly 60,000 square feet. Each year, commencing in March, when the Torne River is still frozen, the crystal-clear ice is harvested and stored until the following autumn for that year’s version of IceHotel, which is built by artisans, artists, sculptors, and craftspeople from around the world. By now, much of the world has heard about IceHotel, thanks, in part, to the involvement of Absolut Vodka (who did an ad campaign photographed by Herb Ritts with Naomi and Kate at IceHotel) and other corporate and marketing sponsors. There are seasonal Absolut IceBars in cities as far and wide as Stockholm, London, Tokyo, and Copenhagen - and all of them built with the fabled crystal-clear ice of the Torne River.
And you’ve more than likely heard the wonderfully jazzy and cool Stacey Kent and Kazuro Ishiguro collaboration, "The Ice Hotel," with its sultry bossa nova vibe. Each year, more than 60,000 visitors stay at IceHotel - before its current incarnation melts back into the Torne River.
(IceHotel story continues on next page)