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Torne River, Jukkasjärvi, SwedenAsaf Kliger

Torne River

It’s fall, and the temperature is dropping. Summer’s warmth rises in vapourfrom the river. Now the water and the cold begin a game of cat and mouse. The river seems to flow more slowly each day. In late-October, the current gives in to the cold, allowing it to seize the waves and stop them in their tracks. An overwhelming sense of peace falls as the freezing begins. At last, it is time for the river to rest.

Each winter, ICEHOTEL borrows several hundred tonnes of ice from the Torne River. As soon as the ice freezes up, the section of the river to be harvested is marked. All winter the ice field is kept free of snow, so that the ice can grow. “Ice that grows in height is of no interest to us. We want it to grow downwards. That’s how we get the crystal-clear ice that has become the signature of ICEHOTEL,” says Alf Kero, who manages Ice Production.

The slow, natural freeze-in gives the Torne River ice unique properties that cannot be created artificially, for example, with common tap water. Ice from the Torne River is perfectly crystal-clear and completely free from bubbles and cracks. And, thanks to its pristine natural source, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, it is also free of pollutants. This results in high-quality ice that is ideal for sculpting and building. Since it is natural and contains no additives, it makes superb ice for drinks.

Fine Torne River Water
ICEHOTEL borrows only a marginal amount of water in frozen form each year from the mighty Torne River. Watch the flowing river for a minute, right where it passes Jukkasjärvi, and the equivalent of the annual ‘water loan’ for ICEHOTEL passes before your eyes. Most of it is returned to the eco-cycle when spring arrives and ICEHOTEL melts silently back into the river again.

The drawings and ideas for the next year’s ICEHOTEL are usually ready by January. ICE Production works in close consultation with the architects and artists. At harvest time, the artists are curious about the quality of the ice. We can see that the ice has different properties, depending on temperature and precipitation. It definitely varies from year to year. Long periods with temperatures below minus twenty degrees are favourable for the raw material. From the shore, close by the magnificent ICEHOTEL, visitors from all corners of the world watch in amazement as the ice is harvested. Perhaps only then do they fathom the magnitude of this incredible project. To first harvest and store huge quantities of ice, and then build a hotel filled with fabulous art and design the following winter is indeed a marvel. It’s surreal, to say the least. And, most amazingly, this is no one-off project. It is a vital and creative enterprise, with a new hotel each winter for two decades now, and always with a new theme, new art and new design. ICEHOTEL presence is now world-wide, thanks to ICEBAR’s that offer a cold and fleeting pure taste of Lapland.

One might say that this makes the Torne River the world’s longest. As the river slowly freezes, the building start approaches. In mid-November, specially selected international artists and designers arrive. They will decorate this year’s version of ICEHOTEL. For some, this is the first time they will work in snow and ice. Others have been with the project since the early-1990s. This blend of neophytes and veterans keeps the art form fresh and vital. The ambition level is high and the creativity is almost palpable. Finally, the river will show what it has to offer. Finally, the ice will be transformed into art.

When the warm spring sun returns and the days grow longer, the snow and ice begin their slow retreat. Tiny rivulets of clear meltwater trickle back towards the source and become one again with the mighty Torne River. Summer is knocking at the door and the river turns to new tasks. For ICEHOTEL, all that remains is to offer humble thanks for the water it has borrowed. And next year, a new ICEHOTEL will be born.