Circle of Ice: the History of ICEHOTEL
On a frosty day in 1989, a number of artists gathered in a workshop led by two Japanese artists and learned to sculpt in ice. The ice was fetched from Torne River; the largest National River we have in Sweden. The intention was to make a joint art exhibition and little could be imagined what this little workshop would lead to.
Already the year after, in 1990, the Arctic Hall was built; an art exhibition of 60 sqm. The ideas for more and larger projects was born. In 1992, the ICEHOTEL team made it possible to open the very first hotel in the world built entirely out of snow and ice.
The first ICEHOTEL had an ice bar, an ice chapel and an ice cinema. In 2016 the new Ice Concept ICEHOTEL 365 was launched; a 2100 sqm big Art Gallery containing 20 luxurious ice suites, an ice bar and an experience room with both art and history. ICEHOTEL 365 is open; as the name hints, all year.
Today, 31 years later, artists' never-ending creativity together with the ICEHOTEL team has resulted in one of the world's most unique hotel experiences, in Jukkasjärvi 200 km north of the Arctic Circle and only 17 km from Kiruna in Swedish Lapland.
Ice Business - This is ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL 365
The hotels operations are privately owned and have two focus areas; ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL CREATIVE EXPERIENCE. ICEHOTEL; which is the main business area and Master Brand, will “based on the Torne River and Jukkasjärvi creatively develop and offer sensual, inspiring and world-unique art, nature, accommodation and meal experiences” as it is called in the business concept.
The concept of ICEHOTEL CREATIVE EXPERIENCE includes all business areas related to ice and art, such as the actual construction of ICEHOTEL, ice events with world-leading brands and ice production where the latter accounts for no less than 1000 tonnes of Torne ice per year that is exported to supply the International Franchise Concept ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL!
Through the years you've been ably to get ice cold cocktails and drinks in ICEBAR's by ICEHOTEL on world destinations like Stockholm, London, Tokyo, Qingdao, Copenhagen, Shanghai, Istanbul and Milano, to name a few.
Planning for a new season at ICEHOTEL begins with selecting the artists from around the world who will be part of the creative team from the approximately 150 applications they receive each year. A jury hand-picks the artists according to their design ideas before previous experiences of working in ice or sculpting.
The unique design of each ICEHOTEL is an important and creative part of the whole experience for a visitor so the Artists are quiet naturally ICEHOTEL's biggest asset when it comes to recruiting a strong team. There are usually about 50% new artists and 50% experienced artists every year who come to the ICEHOTEL to create a new and completely unique hotel.
The hotel size in its entirety is about 5,500 sqm and consists of 40,000 cubic meters of snow and ice. This requires careful planning.
During the summer, details about the new hotel construction are being refined and in mid-November, construction will begin on the first part, which will be completed in the first week of December, when ICEHOTEL's high season begins. Every week until the turn of the year, a new part is opened and the hotel is completely finished about 6 weeks after construction starts.
To build between 60-80 rooms, ice bar, ice chapel and art gallery, it takes about 3000 tons of snow - or "snis" (sneeze) which is a combination of snow and ice - and 1500 tons of pure Torne ice.
The ICEHOTEL has 50 permanent employees and during a high season this is expanded to nearly 250 employees to take care of the approx 70,000 visitors ICEHOTEL have per year, where half are overnight guests and the rest are day visitors.
This is the ICEHOTEL visitors
Travelers that come to ICEHOTEL do so for various reasons but mainly to experience a unique destination. It is often "Global Travelers" who place great value on nature experiences, art and design. The wilderness, the silence and the northern lights attract travelers from Sweden but also international travelers from Great Britain, the USA, Norway, Australia and Germany who are nationalities highly represented among ICEHOTEL's guests.
It is a well-traveled group of people who strive for destinations with great storytelling value but who also make high demands and have experiences as a driving force when they choose their destinations with care. For many of these travelers, ICEHOTEL is high on their "Bucket List" and is a dream destination, which places great demands on ICEHOTEL's co-creators to be original and creative to meet expectations.
ICEHOTEL also has fully equipped conference rooms at guests' disposal, so a large part of the visitors are business travelers, ie conference and incentive travelers.
ICEHOTEL - what to expect from the experience
In addition to ICEHOTEL offering a unique environment filled with art and design, a visit to the hotel is filled with beauty and admiration. Consistent with the ICEHOTEL experience is that all the senses must be present. This includes the hotel, art, design, dining experiences according to FAMM, in the activities ICEHOTEL organizes and offers to their guests.
ICEHOTEL 365 Art Suite Vila vid denna källa | Design Tjåsa Gusfors & Ulrika Tallving | Photo Asaf Kliger | © ICEHOTEL www.icehotel.com
Staying at ICEHOTEL means that you're constantly moving in a temperature of -5 to -8 degrees, but there are also "warm" options for overnight stays. The experience of ice is inevitable and it's a natural part of the attraction of this unique destination. Central to the stay at the hotel is sleeping in one of the luxeriously designed Ice Art Suites and this is being considered by many visitors as the highlight of the visit at ICEHOTEL.
Together with its subcontractors, ICEHOTEL creates a large number of life-affirming, close-to-nature activities and culinary experiences for its guests that make a visit to Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna and Lapland completely unique. The encounter with ice from the Torne River should always be unexpected and inspiring for ICEHOTEL's visitors.
Northern Lights on snowmobile excursion | Photo: Asaf Kliger | © ICEHOTEL www.icehotel.com
Some of the activities are carried out in-house, but above all the activities in nature are often a collaboration with subcontractors to be able to offer something that can not be found anywhere else in the world and that will provide memories for life.
Most popular are Northern Lights tours closely followed by ice sculpture, dog sledding, snowmobile tours, skiing, snowshoeing, adventure trails, boat tours, fishing, rafting and guided tours to experience the Sami Culture.
If you visit ICEHOTEL 365 and Jukkasjärvi during the period 27 May to 14 July, you can also experience the Midnight Sun as the sun dont go below the horizon during this time. The sun is at its lowest point at 00.40 during this period with 47 days in a row of a constantly sun lit sky!
Sustainability Goals of ICEHOTEL - With Torne River always in focus
The ice cycle is the whole basic idea for ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL 365 and to build the Hotel they use 99% of the building material from Torne River and snow. The remaining 1% consists of reindeer traps, doors, beds etc. The hotel is built from scratch every year and is then allowed to melt down during the summer.
The "circle of ice" closes in this way when the water is reunited with Torne River.
The ice is harvested in mid-March after having been grown for six months with constant maintenance of the ice field. The 2500 ice blocks harvested weight 2 tons and are stored in an ice warehouse. The insulation of the warehouse is a material called "Hasopor" which is made from recycled glass and is one of the most environmentally friendly insulation materials on the market today.
“Our entire business at ICEHOTEL is dependent on rental water, clean air and untouched nature. With a Nordic Ecolabel, we make things easier for our personal and also for our customers and partner. Hopefully we will inspire more companies to start their own journey and get certified - it is possible, even for a hotel with extraordinary conditions.” (Malin Franck, CEO ICEHOTEL)
Cooling also comes automatically when you store thousands of tons of ice and the natural outdoor cooling in Norrland for several months creates an energy-efficient storage.
ICEHOTEL 365; drawn by Architect and Sustainability Designer Hans Eek, maintains a constant cooling all year round thanks to 800 sqm of solar panels which, especially during the period May-September with long hours of sunshine, contribute to a completely sustainable energy.
The hotel is Nordic Ecolabelled and also supports organizations such as "Wateraid" and "Älvräddarna".
"Älvräddarne" works to maintain unexploited rivers where the Torne River today is one of Europe's last pristine and wild rivers. ICEHOTEL naturally wants it to remain untouched and are careful about keeping their own impact on the river to an absolute minimum.
An amazing fact is that only 10 seconds of Torne Älv's water flow is enough to produce the ice needed to build a brand new hotel!
ICEHOTEL works closely with the local landowners and surrounding Sami villages to continuously maintain a sustainable level of land use.
Since 2008, ICEHOTEL has continuously implemented improvements in its energy saving system; electricity, heating and water use by both guests and employees, along with the energy partner Gävle Energi. At the same time, ICEHOTEL urges all their subcontractors to follow the same environmental standards.
ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL 365 have been certified as a Sustainable Arctic Destination for their ongoing, extensive and innovative work with water and green energy in focus.
Can you Work at ICEHOTEL?
ICEHOTEL's motto "Nothing is impossible" permeates the whole way of working. ICEHOTEL is a "Master Brand" and one of Sweden's strongest brands. ICEHOTEL's identity, personality, core value and promises to its guests and employees are reinforced with a homogeneous, consistent and over all graphic profile. The company shares the same vision and mission in all business areas. They therefore also uses the same strategic platform and control system to communicate and market ICEHOTEL to the outside world.
ICEHOTEL 29 Staff | Photo: Asaf Kliger | © ICEHOTEL www.icehotel.com
ICEHOTEL is innovative and bold in its development work. They see themselves like a large family where co-creators and employees are important ambassadors to mediate ICEHOTEL and great emphasis is placed on creating good working conditions and satisfied employees.
As ICEHOTEL is in many ways an entrepreneur-driven business, employees value are important and they are encouraged to share ideas and suggestions as this is a strength to adapt and solve guests' demand and expectations of a visit to ICEHOTEL.
Dog Sledges on Torne River | Photo: Asaf Kliger | © ICEHOTEL www.icehotel.com
ICEHOTEL now and Post-Corona
In general, the hospitality industry is considered to be facing a change according to the current situation worldwide with a pandemic. Several "new" trends in the Hospitality Industry are now gaining ground and will change both the guest's planning, demands and experience of their travels in the future.
How will the "new normal" effect ICEHOTEL, its visitors' demands, expectations and the way ICEHOTEL will work Post-Corona?
Like the entire Hospitality Industry, ICEHOTEL has adapted to the existing restrictions for the industry; among other things by limiting congestion in restaurants, bars and others public areas, a smaller number of participants in the activities and extended cleaning routines. As most of the activities take place outdoors in the fresh air, social distancing can be easily maintained.
A new step in adapting to the limitations we all have in traveling during Covid-19 is ICEHOTEL's investment in its project to create an Augmented Reality experience (AR) on Instagram. There you can make a digital journey and marvel at Ice Art Suites and experience the beauty of ICEHOTEL's design and interior of ice and snow (see References).
Another new Covid-adapted collaboration is the one together with Travel Agency VING, where the development of Weekend trips have been developed to increase the availability and influx of Nordic people visitors when international travelers are absent.
“We are optimistic about our future, we are constantly expanding our product range and we are a well-established partner in ice-related projects and events worldwide. We want to be a destination that is equally well visited during all four seasons and has continued to focus on developing our summer business ” (Malin Franck, CEO | ICEHOTEL)
Several trend reports on travel and experiences show that sustainability and nature experiences are strong trends for what travelers will demand after the Pandemic.
Of course this will mean that ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL 365 will continue to be an attractive destination on the world market Post Corona, as these values are central parts of their Master Brand.
With the future in mind, "Kiruna Lappland" has taken on the role of pushing the issue of a more environmentally conscious tourism forward; like the certification "Sustainable Arctic Destination".
The goal is to find a balance where tourism in Kiruna contributes to improving the social and economic conditions in the region and at the same time contribute to the preservation of the environment, nature and cultural treasures in Lapland. To make this possible, it's important that sustainability becomes both natural and a central part of the strategy for Kiruna's tourism industry.
In this mission, ICEHOTEL is not only one of the region's strongest suppliers of these kind of experiences; but also one of Sweden's most famous destination brands in our world.
In 2020, ICEHOTEL received the award World's Leading Icehotel 2020, and became the winner of “The World Travel Awards ”, which also strengthens ICEHOTEL's position on the international travel market.
ICEHOTEL's unique product, its determination with a focus on sustainable tourism, its originality and constant renewal process will make me certain; you can look forward to; at least, 31 more years of new hotels, ice art and nature experiences in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden!
This post was originally an examination report by Fredrik Goldhahn, as a student at TUC University during the Hotel- and Restaurant Manager Program.
ICEHOTEL Circle of Ice: Sustainable Arctic Destination https://youtu.be/_lLdV0L_S4g
ICEHOTEL Life Enriching Moments: The Story of Torne River https://youtu.be/x4rQWw6qmC0
PRESENTING THE ICE SUITES: A Film by Swedish Lapland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST4Tv3XYCYc
The year-round ICEHOTEL in the Arctic Sweden: BBC Travel Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1JtRW6rteA
ICEHOTEL Student Compendium from ICEHOTEL
ICEHOTEL on Instagram: @icehotelsweden
AR-Project on Instagram: (To view open from the Instagram App)
Ice Art Suites on ICEHOTEL 365:
You are here. Elisabeth Kristensen & Dave Ruane
Toybox. Wouter Biegelaar & Viktor Tsarski
Sauna. Luca Roncoroni
De Luxe Ice Suites on ICEHOTEL 31:
Kodex Maximus. Julia Gamborg Nielsen & Lotta Lampa
Hang Loose. Edith Van de Wetering & Wilfred Stijger
Dreaming in a dream. Kestutis Musteikis & Vytautas Musteikis
Cermonial Hall and Art Suites on ICEHOTEL 31:
Ceremony Hall Skogen. Design Anna Öhlund & John Pettersson
The Winter Garden. Design Kauppi & Kauppi
Strawberry Room. Design Petter Stordalen & Luca Roncoroni
Vila vid denna källa. Design Tjåsa Gusfors & Ulrika Tallving
A Break. Design Lena Kriström & Nina Hedman
Paradice Lost. Design Karl-Johan Ekeroth & Christian Strömqvist
Oh Rapunzel! Design Emilie Steele & Sara Steele
A Journey into Letterspace. Design John Bark & Charli Kasselbäck
Auris Interna. Julia Adzuki & Patrick Dallard
Mr Ribston. Design Henkia
The Guardian. Design Linda Vagnelind & Ida Collin
Legacy. Design Carl Wellander & Regin Wellander
Lucid Dream. Design Lukas Petko