Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome to the Ice Hotel!

After driving through a landscape filled with fires, you might want to find some where to cool off, right?


How does an ice hotel sound to you?



Welcome to the Chena Ice Hotel! Well...technically "The Aurora Ice Museum."

I know it just looks like a large tarp painted to look like an ice castle, but that's only because that's kind of what it is. It encases the actual ice hotel, er museum. The original was built in 2004 and subsequently melted in July of that same year. However, that didn't stop Chena from trying again. I figure the conversation went something like this:

"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him it. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man permanent ice, museum."

Allow me to explain through the use of my skills in copy&paste:

While long daylight hours and summer temperatures in the 90ºF range (lies!) melted the first Aurora Ice Hotel in July, 2004, the project was not abandoned. The second version was completed in January, 2005, with the ambitious goal of making it the only primarily ice structure in the world to stay up on a year round basis.

Because of the high cost of electric power at the site (30¢ per kWh) it was decided to use an absorption chiller design by Energy Concepts Co. and powered by the available geothermal resource to keep the Museum ‘on ice’ year-round.

This chiller was a unique, three pressure design and the first of it’s kind to be built in the world. In September 2005, Chena Hot Springs won an award for the absorption chiller from the Geothermal Resource Council for the best new direct use geothermal project in the United States.

When you walk into the ice (I'm sticking with hotel...people DO stay there.) hotel, you're given a thick parka thanks to the constant 24ºF at which they keep the place...with that on, you're fine. The first thing you see when you walk past the coat room is the ice sculpting studio. Steve and Heather Brice are the hands that make this amazing place happen.

Anyway, enough talk, more pics!
 Here's an overview of the main hallway. Using the flash, you really don't see the amazing atmosphere and colors that the place has, but I wanted a few shots that just displayed the amazing 'icescape.'

 Each of these chess figures are around 2 1/2 to 3' tall.

This is the Polar Bear bed and it's extremely cool...both literally and figuratively. Although, the beds do all come covered with several caribou hides which are very thick, soft, and warm.

 Uh...they usually don't come covered with a David. Nice shirt stains my friend. Keepin' it real.

I killed the flash so that the colors of the light passing through the ice would really stand out; it's beautiful. The jousters...

The glowing orbs near the bar.

One of the many chandeliers. It cycled through three or four colors.

The ice Christmas tree.

Yes. This is ice toilet. A green, glowing, ice toilet. Now, to me, this raises some questions, such as, the ah, ice to skin equation, the 'how do you flush this thing?' enigma, and the quandary of the 'melt factor' when in use. It's something to ponder...and we all know there's no better place to think...

...or to stink.

The fireplace is a lie.

She's been holding that pose for years!

So there you have it. The Aurora Ice Museum HOTEL. It's a pretty cool place. Haha puns! Chena also has some pretty sweet hot springs, horseback riding, and sundry other activities in which you can indulge.

Until I just uploaded this picture, I never realized the guy sitting on the spout was waving at me. We didn't have time to take a dip in the springs, or do anything else, but really, how can you complain after visiting a really upscale igloo?

The herb garden outside the non-ice hotel at Chena.

It's a Christmas tree...made of moose antlers.

Apparently, his antlers ended up as a festive decoration.

On the drive home, we saw a lot of moose. I'd say near fifty. Honestly, they were a constant roadside attraction. I was like 'who let all the moose loose?' Turns out, the forest fires. Yeah. Thanks to that million acres of burning Alaska, the animal populations were all akimbo for a while. Many of them had migrated to areas which were less well, engulfed in flames.

It was homeward bound from this point forward. I had time to get back to Salcha, pack up my bags and head to Fairbanks to hop my plane to Seattle. The goodbyes were tearful and the hugs rib-crushing, but it was a wonderful trip.

...And, that's all she wrote about Alaska.

See you soon Seattle!

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