Circle of Ice: the History of ICEHOTEL in Sweden
On a frosty day in 1989, several artists gathered in a workshop led by two Japanese artists and learned to sculpt on ice. The ice was fetched from the Torne River; the largest National River we have in Sweden. The intention was to make a joint art exhibition and little could be imagined of 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 were 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 and the ICEHOTEL team have 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.
Table of Content "Circle of Ice: The History of ICEHOTEL"
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Ice Business - This is ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL 365
The hotel's 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 able 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 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 to the Artists are quite 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 unique hotel.
The hotel's 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 finished about 6 weeks after construction starts.
To build between 60-80 rooms, an ice bar, an ice chapel, and an 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 has 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 experience 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 many 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, and 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 at 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 luxuriously 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 visit Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna, and Lapland in Sweden 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 lifetime memories.
Most popular are Northern Lights tours closely followed by an 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 doesn't 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 constant 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 the 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 the 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 weigh 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 Nordic Ecolabel, we make things easier for our personnel and also for our customers and partner. Hopefully, we will inspire more companies to start their 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 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 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 is careful about keeping its 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 its subcontractors to follow the same environmental standards.
ICEHOTEL and ICEHOTEL 365 have been certified as 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 values, and promises to its guests and employees are reinforced with a homogeneous, consistent, and overall graphic profile. The company shares the same vision and mission in all business areas. They therefore also use 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 as 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' values are important and they are encouraged to share ideas and suggestions as this is a strength to adapt and solve guests' demands 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 the guest's planning, demands, and experience of their travels in the future.
How will the "new normal" affect 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 other public areas, a smaller number of participants in the activities, and extending 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 has 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 attractive destinations 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 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 contributes to the preservation of the environment, nature, and cultural treasures in Lapland. To make this possible, sustainability must become both natural and a central part of Kiruna's tourism industry strategy.
In this mission, ICEHOTEL is not only one of the region's strongest suppliers of these kinds of experiences; but also one of Sweden's most famous destination brands in the 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 in the international travel market.
ICEHOTEL's unique product, its determination with a focus on sustainable tourism, its originality, and its constant renewal process will make me certain; that 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 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