May I just say that snow villages are cold?
Well, d'uh! --you might reply, if you were feeling rather mean-- water does have to freeze for this venture to be successful. Did you expect to saunter around huts made of ice in your bikini?
Like you wouldn't enjoy it too if that were possible.
Montreal's snow village is on the island of Sainte-Hélène, just off the edge of the Old Town harbour and easily reachable by metro. The winter had been so mild this year that initially we were concerned the snow village might not be still standing. Indeed, there were signs of deterioration with several of the rooms showing evidence of small roof renovations and a single large collapsed pile of snow at the edge of the village that stood as a prediction of the doom to come. That said, most of the buildings were in excellent shape and the breeze that peeled off their icy walls helped keep both constructions and visitors nicely chilled.
The main buildings in the village were a hotel, bar and church. Surrounding them were a number of little one-bedroom huts that were likely part of the hotel. It was possible to spend the night in one of these quarters but, with prices starting at $250 per person, we did not consider it. To be honest, I'm not totally sure I would have enjoyed the experience. An ice bed is all very well, but what about the bathrooms?!
As a visitor to the village, you could walk into the hotel and wander through the rooms. The standard set-up was a double bed --consisting of a normal mattress on a bed frame made of ice-- and an ice chair. Many of the rooms though, had a theme. There was one with a giant ice hockey player sculpture (naturally a team member of the 'Canadiens', Montreal's home team) with a replica of the Stanley cup at the foot of the bed. Another room had a solid ice racing car and a third, musical instruments frozen into panes of ice embedded in the walls. One room with two double beds had a trough of ice cubes between the mattresses and roses at the head. It was either a chaste way of spending the night together or the scene from a vampire horror movie. Either way, there was clearly no point in lingering.
The most beautiful building was the church. Ornately carved on the outside, the inside was full of transparent icy glass pews and a wide semi-circular alter with high backed ice chairs. The only non-ice features in any of these buildings were the mattresses in the hotel and the odd fur rug thrown across a chair. Without those, sitting was usually regretted and not easily reversed.
Naturally, as a group of four highly educated adults, we admired the skill and artistry of the craftsmanship.... and at the first opportunity, stole a wooden sled from a careless child.
The sleds, which were scattered around the village for visitors' use, resembled that of a dog sled. They had a single seat up front and a high back with long runners the person pushing could stand on once you got moving. Steering proved to be slightly challenging, but Canada has socialised health care so there was a limit to what (permanent) damage we could achieve.
When we returned to our Bed & Breakfast, I had a hot bath. The ice hotel might be impressive, but you can't do that....