Igloo Hotel Offers Tourists a Cool Place to Stay

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

With the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games underway in Sochi many holiday makers will no doubt be looking at ways to get their own snow and ice experience.

In Germany there's an igloo hotel that allows tourists to experience sub zero living - but beware of avalanches.

Despite low snow levels due a relatively warm winter, Germany's Igloo Village is accepting guests into its own chilly chambers.

This is one of six igloo village hotels in Europe, where guests can pay over 200 euros ($275 USD) to stay in a room made entirely of snow and ice.

The village itself is perched near the top of Mount Zugspitze - Germany's highest mountain at 2,962 metres (9,717 feet) above sea level.

It sits on a small plateau in the shadow of the mountain's peak, around 2,350 metres (7,709 feet) above sea level.

The Igloo Village has 13 rooms, priced between 109 euros ($150 USD) and 209 euros ($186 USD) per person per night.

All rooms are equipped with thick insulation layers, mattresses and sleeping bags meaning there's no worries about getting cold says manager Michael Hacker.

"Basically, the Igloo has a very stable temperature from minus 1 to minus 2 degrees (celsius)," he says.

"The overnight guests will find a normal mattress on top of a really thick insulation layer. And our expedition sleeping bags that you can have in the Romantic Igloo can in emergencies handle minus 30 degrees (Celsius). It is never going to get that cold here, so therefore you get a very pleasant overnight stay."

It's the ninth year this Igloo village has been built here .

This year, it opened on New Year's Eve and will stay open till mid-April - depending on the weather.

First, guests have to travel to Garmisch-Patenkirchen - a ski resort around an hour and half drive south of Munich.

Once there, guests must board a special mountain train, which for an hour and a half carries guests up the mountain and through a dark tunnel.

A return ticket on the Zugspitzbahn train costs 41 euros ($56 USD) per person.

Once at the station, there's a 200-metre hike up a small hill to reach the Igloo Village.

The village itself sprawls 600 square metres and was built using a balloon technique where a large balloon is inflated, then snow is packed on top before the balloon is deflated leaving a circular room.

Each year, snow artists decorate the rooms around a certain theme - this year it's 'Tropical' so there's palm trees, waterfalls and crocodiles along the arctic walls.

Unlike other locations, the village is built using only natural snow, the equivalent of a 2 kilometre-long train fully packed with snow according to Hacker.

It's because Zugspitzplatt is in an environmental protection area, so artificial snow isn't allowed.

"We only have natural snow here," says Hacker.

As a matter of fact, there is no artificial snow on the whole of Zugspitze. That means that all the snow we build with fell from the sky."

Included in the room price is an evening meal of cheese fondue then breakfast served in a restaurant near the train station.

Guests in the 'Romantic Plus' rooms are given a small bottle of Champaign and some chocolates.

But if you like comfort this hotel might not be for you.

Toilets are shared among all guests apart from the ones staying in the two 'Romantic Plus' rooms which boast their own en-suite arctic toilets.

Naturally, there are no boiling hot showers.

But there is this igloo hot tub with 40-degree water to keep guests feeling warm after a day on the slopes.

"Here is our indoor jacuzzi that fits up to eight people," says Hacker.

"It has been built in to an igloo, but an air hole at the top so the hot air from the 40 degree water can flow out. When it is too windy and cold outside our guests can enjoy the pool here."

According to Hacker, many guests prefer to spend their time enjoying the surrounding views rather than taking a dip in the Igloo hot tub.

But most prefer to ski.

Nearby there are two chairlifts, four T-bar lifts and 20 kilometres of moderately difficult ski slopes, plus a number of off-piste possibilities.

Arzu Teke is visiting from south west Germany and took a break from her skiing to walk up the hill and take a look at the Igloo Village.

She's impressed.

"Yes, we definitely want to look at finding a date to stay here for a night," she says.

Snow, ice and beautiful scenery, but there is one drawback.

Whenever there is an avalanche warning in the area the whole hotel must be evacuated at short notice - sometimes even in the middle of the night.

According to Iglu Dorf - Igloo Village's website - that usually happens two to three times a season and is only a precautionary measure.

If igloos aren't to some visitors tastes, there's a host of other hotels situated close to Zugspitze in the nearby village of Garmisch Patenkirchen.

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