The first ICEHOTEL
ICEHOTEL has been reincarnated in a new rendition every winter for the last 24 years. It started with an idea to try offering winter experiences in a part of Sweden that was mostly been associated with the midnight sun and outdoor-focused summer holidays. Art has been at the heart of it all since day one.
That has been and still is the motto of business visionary and entrepreneur Yngve Bergqvist, who is the founder of ICEHOTEL. By that, he means that you should look at the potential and opportunities that your surrounding area offers.
Initially, the long and cold winters made Bergqvist look around for new ideas to use what was at hand in Jukkasjärvi – ice, and plenty of it. Bergqvist was inspired by the Japanese ice sculpting tradition and with the help of two professional ice sculptors from Japan as instructors; he invited artists to attend a workshop in Jukkasjärvi in 1989. This marked the start of a nearly 25 year long journey with the Torne River.
Inspired by the workshop, the following winter saw the first ever ice structure – an especially designed igloo built using mold technique was constructed on the frozen Torne River. The 60 m² igloo was intended to as an art gallery and was named ARTic Hall. The following winters, ARTic Hall attracted considerable attention. It was used not only to display art, but also for church services and film show cases. Bergqvist and his associates also opened a bar inside the hall, and even tried sleeping in subzero temperatures. The igloo had grown to measure 250 m² in size; the building technique was refined and patented in Sweden and Norway.
The first party of overnight guests to stay at ICEHOTEL was a specialist survival group of the Swedish Armed Forces. International space satellite company Versatel was the first conference group to sleep in -5° C (23° F) on a bed of soft reindeer skins. The next morning, they woke up thrilled and exhilarated by the experience and ICEHOTEL was born. Nowadays, some 50 000 guests have the very same experience every winter when they stay in the original ICEHOTEL.