Spending the night in an igloo is a chilling if not necessarily cheap alternative to the usual accommodation found in the Swiss Alps.
swissinfo checked into the “igloo village” above the southeastern town of Scuol to find out why taking a room at an icy inn has become one of the coolest trends in the Alps.
Scuol’s igloo village has to be Switzerland’s largest accommodation made entirely of snow and ice.
On the night of our visit, the outside temperature dropped to minus 18 degrees.
It did not seem much warmer inside despite assurances by the igloo innkeeper, Adrian Günter, who tried to keep us in high spirits by refilling our cups with mulled wine and preparing a steaming fondue for dinner.
For the cold pleasure, we each laid out SFr140 ($105) for the night, which included half board and a down-filled sleeping bag rated for North Pole expeditions.
Günter started building igloos out of necessity years ago when he ventured out on overnight mountain treks and found them the best way to bivouac among the winter elements.
When friends told him they would like to do the same, the idea for the village was born.
Günter makes his igloos from scratch each December - as soon as there is enough snow on the ground – and has been doing so for the past seven years.
“I read books, took advice from friends and learned by doing,” Günter says.
“My first igloo was two metres high, and everyone told me it would collapse. It didn’t, so I tried building one that was seven metres high but never finished it so I had to be content with a three metre version.”
His latest effort is monumental. A narrow arched passageway connects the village kitchen with eight sleeping chambers.
There are dormitory rooms and lovers suites with heart-shaped floors – made of snow, of course.
In case the suites fail to warm the lovers’ hearts, Günter has taken precautions by placing the two-person sleeping bags on top of a multiple layer of carpets, foam mattresses and sheepskins.
The passage from the bedrooms eventually leads to a dining dome, which is Günter’s pride and joy.
This part is seven metres high and required more than 1,000 blocks of snow to build. It has seating for 40 people.
“It took us 28 days to construct the village,” says Günter. “There were three of us working on it. One person to cut the blocks, one to carry them, and the third to put them in place.”
However impressive the dining dome is, we did not waste much time here but spent most of the evening in the next structure – the village sauna.
At the start of each winter, Günter hauls a trailer of the kind usually found on Swiss construction sites to the igloo village.
He camouflages it with snow, adds wooden benches, a stove and changing room.
After a steaming hour or two, we felt we were among the chosen few who could say they worked up a sweat in an ice cube.
“It the perfect balance to sleeping in an igloo,” remarks Günter. “You can experience both extremes in temperature.”
Since there were no showers, we were left us with no choice but to go for a skinny dip to cool down in the snow outside.
“When people sign our guest book, they always say the sauna was the best part,” Günter says with a playful smile.
swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Scuol
The Igloo Village is located in the ski area above the southeastern resort of Scuol.
Weather permitting, the village is open from Christmas until the end of April.
Prices start at SFr140 a person a night, which includes half board and sleeping bag.
The village can also be hired out by groups.