By Laura Pellerine
Following in the footsteps of the original Snow Village in Finland, Montreal’s Snow Village is a first in North America. We were there last weekend for the official opening.
Made from 40,000 cubic metres of artificial snow and more than 200,000 kilos of ice, the “village” sits in Parc Jean Drapeau—just 10 minutes outside of downtown and a three-minute walk from the closest metro station.
The first things you see once you enter through the archway cut into the tightly packed snow walls are the large ice sculpture of Montreal’s major buildings and landmarks and an electric fireplace surrounded by armchairs made out of ice (but lined with fur mats to keep things cozier).
Quebec City no longer has the monopoly on sleeping on slabs of ice—inside the Snow Village is an ice hotel with 15 rooms and 10 themed suites; or you can opt for a private igloo. In all rooms (and igloos) you sleep in a thermal sleeping bag designed for temperatures as low as –30°C, though rooms are kept no colder than 5°C, atop a mattress on a bed frame made out of ice; access to the village and spa are included. (No ensuite bathrooms, though.) Prices start at $195 per person, per night.
SAYING “I DO”
Like Quebec’s Hotel de Glâce, the Snow Village is already a coveted wedding destination, with at least five nuptials booked in the Ice Chapel, where guests sit on fur-trimmed ice pews.
FOR THE KIDS
Kids can try out the mazes and slides, and on February 4 and 5 the Fêtes des Neiges Festival will still be happening around the park with activities like an acrobatic trampoline show, jumping centre, entertainers and animated films.
The party resides in the Amarula Ice Bar, which pumps out dance music even early in the morning. Even those with two left feet might feel the rhythm move them, if only to keep warm.
Our favourite part of the Snow Village is the Pommery Ice Restaurant. Headed by Éric Gonzalez, the renowned chef behind L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel, the 60-seat restaurant is open daily for lunch, and Thursday through Saturday for dinner. Lunch is a reasonable $16 for a two-course prix-fixe menu ($20 with dessert). The menu changes, but we enjoyed butternut squash soup, a roasted beef panini with caramelized onions, bacon, cheddar and grainy mustard, and a chocolate mousse. Sitting on an ice chair at an ice table can get a bit chilly (and eating with one’s mittens on isn’t practical), but a fur mat to sit on and a spiked hot chocolate to sip certainly helped.
ADMISSION: Weekdays $13 adult, $11.50 senior/student, $6.50 child, $35 family; weekends $17 adults, $15 senior/student, $8.50 child, $40 family; free for ages 5 and under. Buy online.
HOURS: Open now until Mar. 31, weather permitting: Mon.–Wed. 11 a.m.–midnight, Thurs. and Fri. 11 a.m.–3 a.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–3 a.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–midnight