Oct 7, 2014
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Interview with Jacques Desbois

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Located only 10 KM away from wonderful Downtown Quebec is the world-famous Hôtel de Glace, which has managed to top many, many “best destination” lists since its first opening in 2001.So what exactly about this magnificent establishment enchants so many guests?

Well, if you speak even a hint of French, you can probably glean that the name of this hotel translates to “The Ice Hotel” in English, which is a fitting title, since it is constructed completely out of ice and snow. And we do mean completely.

The beds? Molded out of ice. The ceiling and walls? Ice. The hotel’s entire structure? Packed snow and ice. How extraordinary is that?

But even more extraordinary is the fact that this hotel is only open from January through March each year, which means that it is essentially built from scratch again for the following year each December by a team of around 50 people over the course of a month and a half.

And with its beautiful lighting, stunning carvings (which are usually chiseled directly into the hotel’s icy walls), intricate icicle structures and the ever-changing room and chapel designs, this 30,000 square meter hotel continues to dazzle visitors year after year.

Intrigued by this real-life ice palace and its many amazing features? Us too! Which is why we were so thrilled to be able to chat with the Hôtel de Glace’s founder and CEO extraordinaire Mr. Jacques Desbois, who was more than happy to dish out travel tips, stories from behind-the-scenes, what some guests can’t stop obsessing over and much more!

Read on to hear what he had to say.

How exactly did the Hôtel de Glace come to be?

Because I am the founder, I have been at the Hôtel de Glace since the very beginning.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been passionate about winter and the snow. In 1996, I established La Piste Desbois, an ecotourism company that operated in the design of interactive igloo villages. Nicknamed Mr. Igloo, I worked hard to ensure the reputation of the company.

Unique to Canada, La Piste Desbois has been involved in numerous festivals, cities and organisms over the years. For example, Québec Winter Carnival, the Fête des Neiges de Montréal and the Musée de la civilisation of Québec took advantage of the expertise of La Piste Desbois.

In 1996, I read an article on the ice hotel of Sweden. Immediately, an idea came to my mind: “If they can do it in Sweden, we can do it here in Québec, the snow capital of the world.” I exclaimed. I decided to pack my bags and fly to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, to meet with the creators of this magical structure about this potentially tourist-attracting project.

After this trip and the feasibility studies, I was looking for good partners that would help them to reach their goal. In 2001, Québec, Canada and the entire America discovered this incredible attraction recognized around the world. Erected for the first time at the Montmorency Falls, the Hôtel de Glace was then built at the Station Touristique Duchesnay for 9 years and moved again in 2011 on the old site of the Québec Zoo. Over the years, the Hôtel de Glace has become one of the most famous images of the Canadian winter. As a leader in the tourism industry for the region, the province and the entire country, the Hôtel De Glace now welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world each year.

How does the design planning process work each year?

The design process starts as soon as we close the hotel in late March. We already know what we liked about the last hotel and what we don’t want to do. Every member of the team is contributing ideas for the next hotel design.

After that, the expertise team begins having meetings during the summer in order to talk about it and usually by September, the new idea has been born!


What is your favorite part of working in the hospitality industry, especially within such a one-of-a-kind hotel?

Giving people the chance to live a unique experience and to fall in love with winter.

What are three facts that visitors should know about your incredible establishment?

First, the Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel in all of North America. Second, the Hôtel de Glace is made entirely of ice and snow—5oo tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow. Three, in the last fifteen years, over 40,000 guests have stayed overnight at our hotel.


Which section or area of the hotel do you think guests enjoy the most?

Because it is so unique, guest enjoy everything! The bar, the hallways, the Grand Hall, the Suites, the Honeymoon Suites, etc. But what I think they are the most curious about is the Chapel.


Any behind-the-scenes stories from the film crews/special projects that use the Hôtel de Glace as a filming location?

A. The Hôtel de Glace was a source of inspiration behind the creation of the Disney movie Frozen.

A few years ago, Chris Buck (who was later to become the director of the film), came to take pictures and videos to soak up this environment.

Five years later, we can see a little of the Hôtel de Glace in the palace where Princess Elsa takes refuge, which a major element of the scene.

B. A few years before this, MTV came to the Hôtel de Glace in order to shoot a TV commercial for one of their kids programs and had brought along a lynx for their shoot.

The lynx was therefore in the middle of the ice bar in the hotel!

What is there to do in the surrounding area and which would you recommend if someone only had one day of leisure time?

Onsite, guests can enjoy snowshoe trails and tube sliding. If they wanted to do other activities as well, I would also suggest dog-sledding, skiing, enjoying lunch at the Sugar Shack or taking a walk in the Old Town area.

What advice would you offer to a first-time visitor of the Hôtel de Glace?

Bring your mittens to be able to enjoy one of our famous drinks in an ice glass in our Ice Bar!

Well there you have it, folks!
Want to know more about visiting the Hôtel de Glace? Then click here to check out their site.