Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Once in a lifetime trip to Northern Sweden
One afternoon in late 2015ish we were sitting in our local dive bar for happy hour. I get together with a few local photographers every few months or so to talk 'state of the industry' over a few pints. My friends Jenna and Jon are exceptional shooters and have done an amazing job in reinventing themselves recently. As we each went through what we were doing to keep up with our ever-changing industry, they mentioned their new venture 'Buck the Cubicle'. The idea behind it is doing in-depth, multi-media productions on people with jobs outside the realm of normality. They have done everything from a falconer to a professional princess and they are impressive. Take a look if you get the chance.
I mentioned to them that I knew a guy that I had met in Colorado years ago, that made musical instruments out of ice in Sweden. They looked at each other, then back at me and said, "we've got miles"! I hadn't spoken to Tim Linhart in many years, since the ski resort days in fact, but said that I would see if I could find him and reach out.
After a quick search, there he was, right on Facebook. I sent a short message explaining the idea, not knowing whether he would respond, let alone if he would be open to us coming to Sweden. I knew he would remember me, as I had photographed some of his ice sculptures in our early days in Colorado. To my surprise, within a few hours, he responded and was excited about the idea. It was on! I will post more on Ice Music another time, but rest assured, it definitely fits with 'jobs outside the realm of normality'.
In planning for the trip to Luleå, in Swedish Lapland, I realized that we would not be far from the famed and original Ice Hotel. As an avid traveler, I could not pass up the opportunity to check it out. After all, it was only a short, four-hour train north to Jukkasjärvi from there and what were the chances I'd ever find myself back in Northern Sweden in the middle of winter.
Upon arrival, the first thing we noticed is that it was cold and I mean bone-chilling cold and windy. Imagine that. We spent a day or so getting our bearings in Kiruna doing the 'once around' and figured out how to get the bus out to Jukkasjärvi where the hotel is located. After about a 30-minute ride through very Lapland-looking scenery, we had finally arrived. Let me just say, even with all the hype, it did NOT disappoint. It was amazing to be actually standing in front of something I had read so much about. I had contacted the property before we left on the trip and set up some presses passes when we got there. After a quick tour around by our guide, we were left to photograph the place for as long as we wanted.
Truly an architectural wonder, I'll let the photography tell the story, but from the crazy guest rooms and lobby in the hotel itself to the chapel and ice bar, it was truly a sight to behold. Exceptional artisans create something that literally goes back to the earth every year. I think now they actually have part of it that survives year-round, but the majority gets demolished at the end of the season.
If you are seeking something truly out of the ordinary and a once in a lifetime experience, consider the Ice Hotel. But be warned, dress warm!