Giles and Monica don their thermals and extreme weather gear, and travel to Sweden's Lapland to visit the ICEHOTEL, a regular feature of bucket lists.
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This programme contains some strong language.
All over the world there are remarkable hotels, born of
bold vision and daring endeavour.
Oh, my goodness! Look at that.
Whether it's an epic structure housing a sky park
the length of the Eiffel Tower...
This is definitely the biggest space I've ever been inside.
..or a glass box perched on the cloud forest.
-Look at that view.
They are all products of innovation, creativity and hard graft.
The people running these hotels strive to create the perfect sanctuary.
But what does it take to offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences
in stunning locations?
To build a hotel in a place like this,
everybody thinks I'm crazy.
In total, we have about 160,000 pieces of uniform.
Oh, my word!
I'm a restaurant writer, newspaper columnist and critic.
I have opinions on just about everything.
What a mad place to build a hotel!
I feel like Scott of the Antarctic, and it did not end well for him.
And I'm a chef, who's worked for the top end of the hospitality industry
for well over 20 years.
How many opportunities do you get to cook breakfast with elephants and giraffes?
We'll travel to amazing hotels in every corner of the world.
To spend time getting to know the people working away behind the scenes.
When did you last have a full night's sleep?
-I don't remember.
What motivates you to work so hard?
The kids. I will sacrifice everything for them.
Join us as we venture inside...
..the world's most extraordinary hotels.
Lapland in Sweden, one of Europe's great wildernesses.
It's December, the sun does not rise above the horizon
and temperatures drop below minus 30.
Here, 200km above the Arctic Circle,
sits the world-famous Icehotel.
It is incredibly cold.
I suppose if you're going to build an ice hotel anywhere,
it has to be somewhere cold.
The polar light, sparkling snow
and sprawling forests make for a landscape
that is almost otherworldly.
Look at this!
Wow! So beautiful!
It's an incredibly unusual hotel
with a dramatic beauty carved from the snow and ice that surround it.
They have pioneered ice chandeliers...
..an ice bar...
Oh, it's quite cool, it's quite funny.
..local delicacies served on ice crockery...
..and every room is different from the next
with its own unique work of ice art.
For the privilege of sleeping in an ice room,
guests pay up to £1,000 per night.
And with the possibility of northern lights,
the nights can be beautiful, but they are also long.
You don't see the sun from mid-December until
the middle of January.
Mornings at the hotel start at 7:30.
I'm going to find out how you deal with guests
who have been sleeping in a freezer.
The 20 rooms are kept at a bone-chilling minus five.
My first job is helping Micke from housekeeping to wake up the guests.
-Can people be grumpy when you come to wake them up?
What are your strategies to cheer up the grumpy people?
Er, lingonberry juice, I would say.
-It's all in the juice!
-Yes, it's all in the juice.
-Let's hope they are in a good mood.
Lingonberries grow wild across Sweden,
and a hot juice is a popular way to wake up here.
Something warm to drink.
How has the night been?
It's been cold, but amazing.
I mean, warm in the thermal sleeping bag, which is fantastic,
but you kind of have to cover yourself right up
and breathe through a little hole.
Did you sleep in your thermals?
-One, two, three...
-Three layers, plus the sleeping bag?
Dear me. I'm doing it tonight.
-I'm a bit nervous.
It's just one of those life experiences
-you can't have, necessarily, anywhere else.
I've got a long night ahead of me.
There are no power points or phones in the rooms.
Would you like me to turn the lights on?
So the only way to wake people up is the old-fashioned way.
How was the night? Oh, there's two of you - that's nice.
-How was it?
-It's a mission getting in and out of the sleeping bag.
It wasn't cold at all, really.
Like, just the tip of your nose.
Oh, gosh! That's good to know.
-I'm doing it tonight.
-Oh, are you?
Yeah, but on my own.
You'll be fine - just do the sleeping bag up nice and tight.
Why do people want to come and stay in that temperature?
You rarely have a comfortable bed
like this in minus five somewhere else,
and the rooms are filled with art.
And it's not just the Icehotel, it's everything around it as well.
There is so much in one place.
This rare combination attracts 30,000 guests every year.
Around a quarter are Swedes, while most come from the UK and the USA.
-It's your room, Flow.
And I will show you. So, welcome inside.
Oh, my God!
Tim from New York and Mary from Chicago are best friends.
It's been their dream to stay at Icehotel for more than ten years.
I love the window.
So this time we need to do something different.
This is the most different that you can get.
And adventure. Everybody we talked to was like,
"Oh, it's on my bucket list. This is something I want to do."
It's amazing. It's beautiful.
Caroline and Andrew Quinn from Haslemere
have come to celebrate Andrew's 49th birthday.
OK. Cheers, babe.
I can't help but stop and just look and it's like,
"Wow, Andrew, look at this, it's incredible."
It's a magical, very magical place.
I've got ice in my champagne.
So have I!
Oh, my goodness! I have as well.
The man responsible for ensuring that guests have
an unforgettable experience is Arne Bergh,
creative director and the heartbeat of Icehotel.
Originally from the south of Sweden,
he came to the Arctic 20 years ago as an ice artist and fell in love.
I think I slipped on the ice and my life took another turn.
The hotel opened for the winter season only a matter of days ago.
The feeling you have when you see that it has succeeded
and you meet the public, you meet the people coming in and they say,
"Wow, this is something,
you have really done something new, something fantastic."
So, of course, I feel humble and relieved.
One of Arne's proudest achievements is the Icebar.
Just what you need. That'll cool you down.
Here, guests can drink both familiar cocktails
and local lingonberry concoctions.
And, of course, the drinks are served in ice glasses,
made in the hotel's own factory.
Every piece of ice in the building has come through here at some point.
I'm going to help Arne make glasses on the production line.
Are there many of these machines in the world?
-I think it's one.
-I think it's this one.
-Did you invent it?
It's about everything we do, I think it's a lot of inventing.
You can't go to the hardware store just to buy one.
It's not like that.
Ice blocks are cut into cubes, then a drill takes out a central hole.
Just keep on stacking them here as they're coming out.
My job is quality control,
a humbling role when all the creative work is done by machine.
And if you find someone that has a crack in it,
just throw it over there.
-The drink might come out on your collar.
Some bloke getting drunk on schnapps isn't really going to care, is he?
And each glass is probably used, on average, a couple of...?
-On average, twice.
I think the record is something like 12 or 13 refills.
Before the glass melts?
No, the guy was down on the ground.
-Yeah. I would throw it away, I think.
Now we take this one. You move it over here.
The machine can make 400 glasses every hour, so the pressure's on me.
Now we've got to move on, we've got to move on.
I better move a bit faster here.
It's good chatting and everything,
but it's all getting a bit on top of me.
I was enjoying it at the beginning,
but suddenly I'm just a cog in a giant industrial ice machine.
The process can't always have been so mechanised.
Oh, no, me and my colleague were standing at the bar
drinking a whisky out of a plastic cup.
Then I said to him,
"We want to do everything in ice here."
"Yeah, you're right," he said.
He took a big piece of ice and just cut it like this with a knife.
And then we went into the bar.
"Could we have a whisky IN the rocks, please?"
And that was the start of it.
What is so extraordinary there is,
great business ideas that you have in the pub
don't usually come to anything, do they?
"I know, we'll make it out of ice - that'll be brilliant!
"Let's go!" Normally, if it was me,
I'd have just cut my thumb off and never thought of it again.
Now it's this process,
so we make something like half a million, a million glasses a year.
You're doing a great job but it's time for a coffee break, right?
I love a big machine,
I love thousands of identical things moving in rows then being stacked,
and it's very nice to get involved in something like that,
to see these tiny little jewels, these diamonds of ice,
rocking along, and every single one is going to end with
somebody filling it with spirits and going, "Cheers!"
It makes it all the more fun.
Guests have been known to feel
the need for Dutch courage before sleeping in the ice rooms.
How do you clean it if someone has spilt, like, red wine onto the ice?
It happened. We had a big, big red-wine accident.
This is alcohol.
-It kind of keeps running inside.
You want to remove it as fast as you can.
If you get a hole, sometimes you can just pour some new water inside.
And let it freeze?
Of course, drinking to excess can have even more dire consequences
than the occasional spillage.
But, Micke, what happens if people get sick in here?
We have to do what you're doing right now.
I suppose the good thing is it will be all frozen.
Luckily, there are no carpets, curtains or upholstery.
Neither are there Hoovers or mops.
Shovels and spades are the tools of the trade.
There we go.
OK, now this feels a bit like normal housekeeping,
picking up frozen glasses.
So, recycle there for the glass.
Paper in there. I do like that.
The specially designed mattresses rest on wooden slats
set in ice blocks.
Does the reindeer skin really keep people warm?
Put your hand on the ice, then you put the reindeer fur on the ice
and then your hand, you won't feel anything.
The skins protect sleepers from their icy bed frames.
The fur is made up of hollow hairs,
making it perfect insulation for reindeer
and, hopefully, us.
I can't help but be overwhelmed every time I walk into a room to clean it,
and you are in sort of awe at the magic of this place.
But I am a bit anxious
about having to sleep in minus five for the night.
How are you feeling about checking in?
The moment has finally come. We finally get to do it.
It's been a phoney war up to now.
I was quite petrified, hearing, "My gosh, it's minus five."
Do we sleep like this? Do we take our clothes off?
Well, I've got backup.
But I'm happy to sleep like this, just to stay warm.
For visitors who want a respite from the cold,
not all the hotel's buildings are made of ice.
Guests can also stay in heated chalets,
take plenty of saunas and eat hearty regional dishes
in a nicely heated restaurant.
And before you're shown to your icy bedchamber,
you check in at a reassuringly warm reception.
Hi, there. Coren and...
It's one of the more daunting check-in experiences I've had.
And I'd like to order an extra-warm sleeping bag.
Extra-warm. OK, we'll put that out.
Inside or out, the cold is always a battle here.
Oh, that's a nice way to do it, you stay warm.
So the hotel supply sleeping bags
that have been tested to minus 40 degrees.
You look like you're on some mountain
and there's a couple of goats behind you.
How amazing, how beautiful!
How not where I want to go to actually sleep.
-Can we sleep in these?
-I recommend less clothes.
-The less clothes the better because, actually,
it's not the sleeping bag keeping you warm, it's you keeping you warm.
-Your body heat?
And the less clothes you have
the faster you spread out the heat in the sleeping bag.
So, is it better to be completely naked?
-One layer is all we recommend
-and then you have a hat and a pair of socks as well.
"Pick Your Mustache."
Oh, my word!
The bed is real and it's surrounded by cactuses.
Lovely. How about that?
You've got to climb up there to go to sleep.
You don't make this easy.
-So sit on that and then slide.
Legs straight out.
My main concern is what happens when you need to get out of this to go to
the toilet at night. I'm not going to be wearing waterproofs
-and you're going to have to slide on this ice.
You guys are pretty lucky. You guys can just run straight inside here.
Oh, this is more like it.
Fortunately, the bathrooms are not made of ice
and are kept at a very pleasant 20 degrees.
I can see myself camping on this floor if I get too cold in there.
-Some even have their own saunas.
-This is fab.
Oh, I'm glad my bed is a bit easier to get into.
My least favourite people in the whole world, phone morons.
Look at them. It's rather marvellous.
The room is called Twitter
and features a host of ice statues fixated on their smartphones.
I'm going to have telecoms ice nightmares.
Do people ever not make it through the night?
It has happened, but most often people come up
because they're jet-lagged or maybe have a cold.
Not because they're entombed in an ice cave?
-With no windows?
And minus five degrees - that's not the reason?
No. That's the cosy part.
My idea of cosy and your idea of cosy are two very different things.
It's like the Batcave if Batman couldn't afford the heating bill.
-Enjoy your room. Good luck.
-I will. Sleep well. Have fun.
There's no more putting it off.
It's time for one of the coldest night's sleeps
that anyone will ever pay for.
My daughter gave me this a few years ago.
I never leave home without it.
Every time I travel, it goes next to my bed.
God, I'm already cold.
I feel like Scott of the Antarctic.
And, as you know, it did not end well for him.
This is just like when you're outside in the cold, you get cold,
you put more layers on. I'll try that.
It's very, very cold.
The rooms are so well insulated that once you're tucked up
it's supernaturally quiet and rather soporific.
They have no idea. They have no idea.
Arne lives just the other side of the river from the hotel,
close enough to keep an eye on the brainchild of his wild imagination.
We have always done the unexpectable, building an ice hotel.
How crazy is that?
When you can sleep in a comfortable hotel, why should you sleep in ice?
Because, obviously, it's a good idea - it works.
It may seem like a good idea
from the warmth of a cosy Swedish homestead,
but we've been sleeping at a temperature
more suited to penguins than people.
It's time for our wake-up call.
Would you like some hot lingonberry juice?
Did you sleep all right?
Oh! Oh, my God!
Yeah. It was all right until I had to go to the toilet,
until... Oh, hello.
See you later.
I've learnt now,
I understand the attraction about sleeping in an ice room like this.
It's a unique experience, it really is. Yeah, it's just...
Really happy, really pleased that I did it.
Loved it, love it. I'm so happy I did it.
-What have I got? What's that?
-It's lingonberry juice.
Cool. All right. You don't do breakfast, do you?
-Not in bed.
-A cheeky coffee?
-PG Tips with a splash of milk?
-Bacon and eggs?
-More lingonberry juice.
It just feels sort of natural and real and quite intrepid.
It's as close to living on the edge
as I'm going to get in my bourgeois little life.
Once the guests are up, the hotel is transformed into an art gallery.
150 visitors come each day to see the sculptures first-hand.
Every room is designed and built by different artists.
There are giant letters...
..a Victorian library and all sorts of characters.
The art is bewitching, with an ethereal power all of its own,
but it doesn't keep you warm.
For that, you need to turn to food.
To maintain body temperature,
visitors are advised to eat 40% more than they usually would.
Guests can gorge on dishes including reindeer topside,
mushroom risotto and Arctic char.
The man responsible for feeding all those extra-hungry mouths
is Alex Meier, the hotel's half-Swedish, half-Swiss head chef.
He trained in the two-Michelin-starred Le Bearn restaurant in Geneva
and is famously passionate about his work.
It's Alex's dream to make the food at the hotel
as renowned as the ice art.
To be a chef in this harsh climate,
you have to think a little differently.
There are no commercial farms in the area -
it's simply too cold and dark for things to grow -
so to get fresh local vegetables on the menu
Alex has pioneered the use of rein-moss,
a lichen normally eaten by reindeer rather than hotel diners.
I love this.
Alex has invited me along to harvest the moss
and replenish his supplies for the week's service.
I have to do a snow angel.
Yeah, it's quite hard, but you get used to it after a couple of years.
The moss is found on almost every pine tree surrounding the hotel.
-And it's just on the trees?
You say "moss". You're not looking at...
-Are you looking at something like this?
I've got a knack for this, huh?
So, do you just pick it straight off?
-You just collect it, yeah.
-Yeah, it's amazing.
-Like Christmas tree decorations.
-I mean, it's beautiful on a tree.
Once you take it off, it's like all the hair that you collect in
-the bottom of a shower.
-Can you eat it raw?
When it's crispy, it's a bit different.
-It's actually quite bitter.
-Yeah, it's quite a bitter taste.
Yeah, there's a very light grassy flavour to it.
With the amount that we have here, how long would that last?
-This is for maybe two or three nights.
Oh, you've lost all the...
We won't get it back.
-We'll leave it for the reindeer. Are you OK?
-I'm good, I'm good.
-Watch out here again.
It's hard enough staying on your feet here,
let alone foraging for fresh produce,
but is it worth all the effort?
In the restaurant,
different types of rein-moss are served with reindeer fillet
and shiitake mushrooms.
It's almost like a crispy sort of rice cracker.
Oh, that's lovely.
It doesn't matter that Alex is cooking in the Arctic -
his diners demand their cuisine to be fresh and locally sourced.
Hi, I'm Monica.
Hi, Monica. Nice to meet you.
Johan Lans is one of Alex's most valued suppliers.
He's found an extraordinary solution
to the problem of growing produce here.
Have you been down a mine?
-Never? All right.
Just 20 miles from Icehotel is the world's largest
underground iron-ore mine.
The Kiruna mine opened over a century ago
and since then over a billion tonnes has been mined.
In fact, without it, Icehotel could not exist.
It's the only reason why there is an airport
in such a remote northerly spot.
So, this is the entrance to the mine?
It feels like you're going into a big tunnel,
when you go down there.
It's getting a little foggy on the windows.
-But it's because it's getting warmer and warmer.
The mine goes 1,500 metres deep
and has an extraordinary 80km of underground roads.
Johan's farm is on an empty tier,
where all the ore has been mined out.
-It is warm.
I think it's around 15, 16 at least.
Goodness me, Johan!
What on earth are you growing down here, and is it legal?
It's legal. And it's shiitake mushrooms.
Wow! Johan's mushroom farm is organic.
Oh, my word! Look at these! Mushroom heaven.
It can produce 2,000 kilos of shiitakes per week.
-Have a look at these babies.
-Look at that!
They are so beautiful.
It's so fresh.
It's actually more delicate in flavour, isn't it, this fresh?
It goes so well with everything.
Johan sells the mushrooms to the hotel, where they're used in soups,
risotto and with reindeer.
Do it like this, and just take it off.
Almost all of these are the perfect size.
Whatever made you think that the mine would be a good place to grow mushrooms?
Because it's the same climate all the year,
so the mushroom is always getting the same quality.
Above ground, it's minus 18 degrees.
In the mine, it is plus 15.
So does that mean down here you don't have to worry about the cost of heating?
If we should be in a warehouse in winter, in Kiruna,
it should be really, really expensive to make it.
We don't use almost no energy at all.
Look at that beauty.
I love my job. I love your job, actually.
It's not just the kitchen that strives to source locally.
All the ice in this frozen colossus of a hotel
comes from the River Torne that snakes past its front door.
The ice is harvested in March, when it's thickest,
and stored in the warehouse throughout the year.
So this is what we've got left.
Arne's showing me round his ice store
to give me a better idea of how you make a hotel out of a river.
So there's a machine that's out there that cuts them out just like that,
lifts them up and brings them here? So they're like diamonds?
There are actually the mine,
they are the diamonds, they are everything.
How is it different from working with a concrete block?
-You don't need mortar?
-It's very simple.
It's a two-component glue.
It's like water and temperature - that's the two components we need,
then we can glue them together.
So what makes a good ice block?
-These look to me different.
-They are different, they're all different.
That's what I say. It's a frozen world.
You can look into a block, it can be like skies inside, a landscape.
You can look into a block... Look here.
This could be an underwater world, where you see something.
A photograph of the underneath of the...
-Do you ever get fish in them?
Yeah, once we had a fish inside.
-It's like a mascot for the people working here.
-That's really cool.
-And this is ice pre-cut?
That's a chandelier going into the church
-when they're finished building it.
I was very touched by Arne's strong emotional response
to the material that he works with.
The way that a sculptor looks at a block of marble
and sees the human within that they merely have to pull out of
the marble, he looks at a big old slab of ice, a carved cube of river,
and sees a hotel.
Whilst Arne might see a hotel, Alex sees a gastronomic experience.
Here, Monica, we even have the ice piece.
-These are neat.
-Look at that.
You can use them on both sides,
you can put something inside or, now,
-we're going to do something on the side.
-So, we've got one each?
Alex offers a signature ice menu.
What sort of challenges do you face, using ice?
-Pushes you to be a bit more creative, does it?
How many courses are there on this menu?
It's seven courses.
The starter for today is Swedish bleak roe.
Like caviar, the saltiness of the roe means it doesn't freeze.
Plating on ice is a whole new experience for me.
-That was right, wasn't it?
-It's just plain creme fraiche?
-No, we whip it.
It's plain creme fraiche that we whip so it gets a bit harder.
-And a bit of dill.
-And some dill. Service.
Next, we are going to make sashimi with a wakame salad.
-Want to make one?
Unlike outside, the kitchen is roasting hot.
Alex has come up with an innovative solution -
a soy jelly to hold everything in place.
Very cool. I like that.
The menu finishes with a dessert of panna cotta, Arctic raspberries,
It's a ideal plate for this dessert, isn't it?
You're not going to worry about the sorbet melting.
No. That's one thing that's really amazing.
It's hard to believe in the depths of winter, but when summer comes,
there is 24 hours of daylight, and temperatures reach 20 degrees.
In these conditions, you'd think an ice hotel would melt.
But this hotel isn't just a work of art,
it's also a ground-breaking piece of engineering.
It is the world's first all-season, 365-days-a-year ice hotel.
In summer, grass will grow on the roof, whilst inside,
it will remain forever winter.
Built this year, the 365, as it's known,
is a solution to a long-standing problem.
Visitors stopped coming as soon as spring arrived.
365 was the answer to the questions we had for so many years.
What can we do?
Because we've got four months high season.
So, now we are taking a big step into the future.
The man responsible for making sure this leap into the future is a success,
and not just an enormous puddle, is chief engineer Michael Uhland.
So, how do you make the building cold?
Just a freezing unit to cool down the whole hotel.
So, this is all really like the back of a fridge?
It actually depends all on this in this room.
We actually mix antifreeze, 50/50 with water,
cool it down to -40 degrees.
You pump that around the hotel, do you?
It goes out the roof
and then it goes into the corridor.
15 airlocks guard the delicate interior.
The skeleton is made of steel and concrete
and covered with 2,000 square metres of insulation.
It's like an overgrown Thermos flask.
Of course, we have this insulation layer of 20 centimetres.
Most people put insulation on the roof to keep the heat in.
This is the reverse system, you know.
20 centimetres of insulation will protect from summer temperatures.
Hidden from the guests in the cavity between the insulated roof
and the icy corridor are the eaves.
You've got some worrying frost on your pipes, there.
-These are presumably containing the coolant, are they?
-And how does the coldness of that get into to the room?
The smaller ones, here, the white ones, they go into each room.
-Around the whole room?
-Around the whole room.
This will be the first summer where you'll find out if it works.
-And if it's not,
move on to another project!
Paradoxically, the system designed to keep the ice frozen
will be powered by solar panels.
The whole 365 Icehotel is powered by the sun.
And the sun is the enemy to the ice.
It eats our art, it eats our design.
And now, because we have the whole building covered by solar cell panels,
that means the sun is powering the 365,
and that is a fantastic thought.
It's an amazing achievement, the 365.
For my part, I can fully understand coming here to the frozen, snowy wastes
to hunker down in what is basically a natural igloo for the night
and really get in touch with your cold, northern, snowy self.
To spend your holiday, on the other hand, in a giant fridge,
that's something different, that's a more peculiar taste.
It may be peculiar,
but the 365 comes after a long line of seasonal ice hotels
built on this land.
It all began in 1991,
when entrepreneur Yngve Bergqvist
decided to establish an ice gallery for local indigenous art.
It only became a hotel by accident after workers began sleeping there.
Since then, every winter, in November,
they have made a seasonal hotel out of nothing but snow and ice.
And every spring, in April,
that hotel has began to melt back into the river.
The base of the Icehotel is to build in the winter,
to follow the season and let it go with the floe.
Great. OK, down we go.
Arne is continuing the annual ritual of building a seasonal hotel.
This 27th incarnation is known by workers as The 27,
and we are going to help.
Perhaps, surprisingly, it's not made of ice blocks alone.
The superstructure is built out of a substance called snice,
which is made using the snow throwers normally used in ski resorts.
Snice is actually water.
It goes through this snow cannon,
and the snow cannon produces small ice crystals with air between,
so it's white as snow, but stronger than snow, but softer than ice.
When the snice freezes, it sets like concrete.
So, it's the perfect building material for us.
The arch, that's the frames which we use for the building.
We put them up in a line, in sections.
Then we throw the snice onto them, until we have a thick cover.
And then we wait one day or two and then we lower them.
And pull them out with a tractor because they are on skis,
so they can be moved.
Like a tunnel of opportunities.
It takes 10,000 tonnes of snice and ice
to build the main structure of the hotel.
Only once it's ready can work on the 35 bedrooms begin.
-Oh, it's freezing.
-It is freezing.
There is a lot to do and not much time.
Luckily for Arne, help is at hand.
Why would I want to live in this lovely, warm, wooden hut like this?
I know, I'll build a house out of ice, just because I can.
First, we need to get kitted up...
-..for one of the world's coldest construction sites.
We need you, you know, because there's quite a lot...
Still got quite a lot to do until we open.
-The is always things to do.
-You'll be able to tell I'm a builder
because I'll always be on a coffee break and nothing will get built.
Just run around with the other builders.
Sorry, love, knocking-off time.
-Two pair of shoes here for Giles and Monica.
-Steel cap, for protection.
If you get an ice block on your feet, you know, that's not very nice.
-These ice blocks, they're about two tonnes.
It seems that Monica and I might not be quite the pair
of capable construction workers Arne had hoped for.
-I don't know, I think... Does it...? How does it...?
-This is Monica's, yeah.
-And that's yours.
-Are you OK for now?
Yeah, I don't really want to change either.
You're not used to so much snow, are you?
Yeah, we get a scattering in January usually, for a couple of days.
Often it can be half an inch. It's lethal.
We are not the only rookies on this building site.
Of the 31 artists tasked with designing and sculpting rooms,
20 have never worked here before.
We've got artists from Hong Kong, Japan, Iran, England and all over.
For some, it's their first time working with ice.
It's so different to be here.
They could be big city people, sitting in an office,
working on a computer in digital design.
They are very skilled, but here, it's really practical
and so for them I think it's a challenge, but also an inspiration.
So, guys, you should make this fella,
the chainsaw, your best friend.
They will have 15 days to complete their rooms.
Come over, Lisa.
Take this hand and move this one forward.
Dorset sculptor Lisa Lindqvist is one of the novices.
-It was there.
-Oh, have I just locked it?
I think you locked it again.
It's been a dream for about 20 years.
It's always been there as, "One day I'd love to do the Icehotel."
You're pushing yourself in all ways,
physically and mentally and creatively.
I'm joining Lisa as she works on her room,
called Sleeping Inside A Thought.
-Goodness me, look at this.
'It's less than a week until guests arrive.'
Do you trust me with this?
'Compared to the finished rooms in the all-year-round hotel,
'it is very much a work in progress.
'Rather than embrace the chainsaw,
'Lisa is sticking to what she knows best - the chisel.'
Let's hope whoever takes the room won't be looking in this corner.
I see what it looks like now.
So, what's the concept behind the room?
Literally, could not sleep for getting so excited about applying.
And I was getting quite... You know that nervous energy,
where you're sort of...loads of ideas are running around,
and then I thought, "Maybe that should be the idea,
"that you're just sleeping inside your thought."
The bed is kind of sort of flying, about to take off, on fire.
-I can see the flames taking shape.
'We need to finish the walls before the bed and lighting can be moved in.'
And what is a typical day like for you?
About six till nine or ten, but it gets quite obsessive,
and physically, there's nothing I do that's like this.
-You know, not relentless, every day.
-It's a room.
It's really nice having a helping hand.
Well, I'm glad it's making a difference.
With all this effort and stress,
how do you feel about it all melting away, eventually?
I think that's quite lovely.
It comes from the river, goes back to the river.
I'm just adding my little bit for a couple of weeks, and then...
'Whilst Monica works away, I want to have a quick explore.'
These are awesome! I tell you what,
the people have been having an awful lot of fun.
Every one you go in just makes you giggle.
He's got a little bit of heavy metal playing,
he's basically building a room out of giant sugar cubes.
It's just a massive trip. I want to sleep in this one.
What could be better?
The construction site of the hotel is like an enormous, ever-changing
and not very warm art studio.
Basically got sort of stained-glass windows like Westminster Abbey.
Howard Miller is an architect.
He is building the room with his brother Hugh, a furniture designer.
They're from Liverpool.
They don't look like this to begin with.
That's a leaf made from a mould of a leaf.
'They've collared me for the arduous task of making weenie ice leaves.'
-That's a very nice leaf.
-That's about an hour's work.
You've chosen a bonkers theme, for me.
I was kind of up for lifting some pieces of ice.
Something a bit manly. Burn some calories, work off my lunch.
'The room is called Ikebana.
'The focus is an intricate cherry blossom tree.'
Is that all right?
It'll fall to bits.
-You want it to be flat.
'There will be 84 leaves.
'To create each one, I have to melt the edge on a hot plate
'and force them together.
'It's delicate work.'
-Yeah, that's pretty good.
-It is sticking to the glove quite a lot.
-Yeah, that happens.
The most annoying thing is that when you've actually managed
to get one on the tree, and you pull your glove away
and the whole thing just goes...pfft!
It was all fine until you said put three on there.
-You could spend all the time you have left making the perfect flower...
..and you still wouldn't have a room.
Whereas you do 300 good flowers and you've got a room.
It's got to be done in two days.
The perfect is the enemy of the good, Howard.
That's my motto. What do you reckon of my completed leaves?
We'll smuggle them in somewhere.
-I'll be part of the Icehotel?
Art has always been at the heart of the hotel.
The original Icehotel was a showcase
for the craftsmanship of the local Sami people.
Also known as Laplanders,
the Sami are renowned as nomadic reindeer herders.
The hotel today buys all of its reindeer meat from one Sami supplier - Manne.
Manne has been helping rear reindeer since he was three.
I've taken a break from construction
to find out more about how the hotel has impacted the Sami people.
What do you do with this meat?
-All the trimmings for sausages.
'I'm helping Manne's butcher, Vladimir,
'prepare some reindeer meat for the hotel.'
Lunch? Oh, sounds good!
It just falls away when you eat it. Delicious.
It's like something you'd have in a shawarma.
'Tourists can sometimes be a problem for the migrating reindeer.'
'Luckily, Icehotel and its guests are far away
'from the reindeer's historic grazing grounds.'
How has the hotel and tourism affected your business?
Do you think the nomadic way of the reindeer herders can continue?
Back at base, it's only days until the seasonal hotel is due to open,
and work is going on around the clock.
Next door, the permanent hotel is at full capacity.
For the guests, sleeping in an ice room is the main attraction,
but nature comes a close second, offering frozen forests,
the River Torne and the famous Northern Lights.
The hotel organises expeditions into the wild.
Each trip is led by one of 12 specially trained guides.
-So my name is Leif Hannes...
-GIVES HIS FULL NAME
..but people call me Hannes.
I work as a wilderness guide here at the Icehotel.
For a lot of tourists coming up here,
this might feel a bit like them being on Mars.
But for me it feels like home, basically.
Is there any other place in the world I'd rather be?
So I'm off to meet Hannes to set up the snowmobiles
to take some tourists out for a major trek into the wilderness
and to look after them, cater to their every whim.
'Hannes and the other guides will, on average,
'take out 200 of these excursions each per season.'
Is this all you are wearing?
-What do you mean?
-Well, look, I'm dressed up in a boiler suit!
Yeah, but I'm an Arctic creature.
'The tour is a winter wilderness survival trip.'
Put them on your back like that.
'Designed to show tourists the skills needed to endure the Arctic wastes.'
Put two on each seat, basically.
-Over the snow?
-Over the snow.
'I will be helping Hannes keep an eye on the guests
'and make sure we don't lose any.'
If you weren't there, if a bunch of tourists wandered off and got lost,
how long would they survive out here?
It depends. If they go out when we have the coldest temperatures,
like -40 degrees centigrade or even more than that, I would say...
With just jeans and sneakers, they would probably survive half an hour,
an hour, something like that.
All three. All right.
My name is Hannes and I'm going to be your survival guide today.
'Today's guests are all British.'
Balaclava, a scarf, just take it on top of your nose.
It will be windy out on the river here,
so just so you don't get any frostbite or even start to get cold.
Let's see about my intern, if he could find a helmet.
'We're heading to the other side of the river to the forest.'
Not since I got on a camel have I been this comfortable!
'Wind chill from the ride can cause frostbite.'
You look a little bit red here in-between your eyes.
You're not cold there at all?
'Hannes and I are looking for white spots that can be early indicators.'
-Still got your fingers and toes?
-You're not freezing at all?
'The main set piece of Hannes's tour
is to show guests how to make a fire in such hostile conditions.'
Always try to keep some signs that you can recognise.
'In this part of Sweden,
'there is less than one person per square kilometre.
'Finding someone with a bag of kindling
'and a box of matches is unlikely.
'So our first job is gathering firewood.
'At this time of year it's already dark at 2pm.'
-Yeah, careful there. When walking through very deep snow,
it's important to try and spread out.
-You did that deliberately!
Someone has been here before me.
I can tell from the way it's been sliced off.
There may be other survivors.
It's my stick!
'My next task is to show the guests how to start a fire
'using only a flint and some birch bark.'
How long have I been doing this? About ten hours?
No, five minutes.
I'm not going to do it for you, Giles.
If you're going to be a guide, you have to know how to do this.
I don't think I'd make much of a wilderness guide.
The key thing seems to be patience.
You wouldn't want to be stuck with me in a wilderness,
unless what you needed was someone to just...panic.
'Just when Hannes is beginning to doubt my potential as a guide,
'I succeed in igniting a roaring blaze.'
Giles made a fire!
-Yeah, seems like I did it.
-Who did that?
Maybe I could be a guide after all.
You can press the twigs a little bit. There you go!
I've basically been faking it up to now.
I mean, I'm something of a fire king.
Roaring away there, roaring away. Very pleased with that.
'Up here, there are few sources of vitamins C,
'but in one cup of pine needle tea,
'you can get as much as you would from five glasses of orange juice.
'Sadly, there is a downside...'
It smells like a sauna.
A little bit, yeah.
It tastes like a kitchen table.
'Perhaps it's an acquired taste.
'Certainly, the trip itself is an exciting departure
'from the confines of the hotel.'
That's a wonderful way of offering them.
It's just a half-hour trip on a snowmobile across a frozen river
and suddenly they're in the wilderness being taught how to make fire
with birch, bark and flints and boil pine needle tea on it.
They can't go home complaining they haven't had a range of experiences.
After a ferociously cold day of guest wrangling,
it's time to unwind, but here, even having a hot bath takes work.
The bath is heated by wood-burning stoves -
a part of the traditional sauna experience enjoyed by hotel guests.
-Is it hot?
It's nice, though.
It's been a long workday.
It has been a long, hard day.
So, Hannes, how do you feel when you're out there?
For me, it's exciting, it possibly feels a little bit dangerous.
-You presumably feel at home?
-If I'm in the wilderness,
I always feel this kind of sense of freedom.
I love people and I love the wild,
and I can bring both of them together.
What do you think your guests get out of it?
Are they looking to escape?
Well, that's what I try to give them, as a guide, at least.
We are humble and kind, but in a harsh way.
It's kind of weird if you don't live in this culture.
It's a really strange perspective.
So I'm feeling a bit warm. What about a snow roller?
A snow roller? Is that a cocktail?
No, it's not a cocktail! It's when you go and roll in the snow.
Oh, no! What, actually lie in the snow?
Just lie down and roll around. Are you ready? On three...
One, two, three!
That's hot in there! Oh, that's prickly.
Oh, that's nice!
Oh! Oh, that's prickly!
For seasonal workers, like Hannes, the all-year-round Icehotel
will make a huge difference to their working lives.
The main alternative employer is the mine.
I would call it Mordor.
It looks like Lord of the Rings - dark and haunted almost.
It's even worse during night-time.
You can see it more and more.
I don't know how to explain it better.
The mine is surrounded by the town of Kiruna.
Of the population of 18,000,
more than 2,000 work at the mine and many more in related businesses.
We are basically the second richest city in Sweden.
It's all because of the mine.
Earn quite a lot of money down there.
But, for Hannes, a life underground has never appealed.
The Icehotel now provides him with a permanent alternative.
After six weeks of working day and night,
the big day has finally arrived for Hannes
and all his hotel colleagues -
the launch of the 27th seasonal hotel.
There's only two hours to go until the opening of The 27,
the original Icehotel.
Frankly, in parts, it still looks like a bit of a building site.
There is a terrific sense of urgency - even Arne is mucking in.
It's all hands to the pump.
So what can I do? Can I genuinely be any use?
I think you can because we are in a hurry
and we've got to fix the reception desk before we open.
I would like it to be a little bit wave, like water.
You go like this. Can you see?
I can see.
You take a firm grip and, you see, I have to like...
-You've got to sort of...
And you go straight.
Gosh! If I go too far,
you're going to end up with no reception desk, aren't you?
-Is that OK?
He trusts me with this tool.
This is the reception desk of The 27,
the big house that people have come from all over the world to stay,
and he's just handed me... I don't even know what it's called.
And set me to try and create a water effect on the reception desk.
It's quite stressful.
As guests begin to gather outside the hotel,
Lisa's still battling to finish her room.
I love the idea you just put a carpet down.
How long before the guests arrive, Lisa?
Apparently, five o'clock, and I think it's about four o'clock now.
-You've got an hour?
Did you think it was going to be this last-minute?
No, I really did not think it would be this last-minute.
So it's just the lighting and the bed can go down?
Just the lighting, yeah.
I'm very much getting the hang of it.
It's all about the motion, bend the knees,
kind of swivel at the hips and then just smooth movement.
I may have found my calling.
I've never been an artistic type, but this may be it.
Maybe next year, I'll come back and do a room.
Getting the snow in is easier than getting it back out.
-Give it a good kick.
-Is it always a rush like this?
When you have a premiere, when you have an opening,
it's always like that and it's been,
all the years I've been working with the Icehotel, last-minute.
-So, what do you reckon?
-Yeah, look at it.
-It's got a lovely shimmer.
-We've got a reception desk, OK?
Get in there.
With only moments to spare, the hotel is complete.
The guests gathered tonight will be the first of 12,000
that will stay here before the hotel melts.
Everyone, we've got cold drinks here.
For founder Yngve and Arne, it has been a monumental year -
the opening of the world's first permanent ice hotel
and the completion, just in time,
of the 27th seasonal hotel.
-Welcome to the Icehotel.
It's an amazing work, it's an amazing job.
-That's it - 27.
And welcome inside.
We are building dreams, in a way, and making dreams come true.
When people are heading in for the first time and you see...
-like a man 50 years old, like this.
-This is amazing!
If people, artists, guests, anyone who comes here
who can contribute to a beautiful experience,
in some way, then you are happy.
You know the best feature in this room?
It's been a fascinating experience
to work in these two radically different ice hotels.
27 - what an achievement.
They got that done just in the nick of time.
And it really is remarkable to create artworks, stunning rooms,
whole buildings out of frozen water alone,
and to do it to a deadline year after year.
Oh, come on! It's little more than an igloo when you compare it with 365.
What an achievement! All-year-round ice hotel.
Yeah, but is it as special?
'Perhaps it's not as romantic as its elder brother,
'but its technical brilliance, its ingenious use of the sun
'and its incalculable value for local people
'make it a towering accomplishment.'
They're both special. They're both enormously special.
They both reflect the amazingness of this crazy frozen part of the world.
I have to agree.
But maybe the greatest triumph of all is to have taken somewhere
so apparently inhospitable, so alienating to most humans
and made it warm, welcoming and utterly magical.
Giles and Monica don their best thermals and extreme weather gear, and travel 200km north of the Arctic Circle to Sweden's Lapland. They enter a magical world of snow, ice, inky blue and pink skies, and ICEHOTEL, a regular feature of bucket lists, now in its 27th year. The hotel's team have given themselves their biggest challenge yet - to run an ICEHOTEL that will stay open 365 days of the year, powered by the sun.
Using two-tonne blocks of ice that have been hacked from the nearby River Torne, Giles works with a team of international artists to create individually crafted rooms designed to take your breath away. He meets Arne Bergh, responsible for ICEHOTEL's creative vision, who teaches him how to make drinking glasses from ice and even lets him put the finishing touches to the hotel's reception desk.
Beyond the hotel's unfinished walls, Monica meets head chef Alex, who introduces her to the art of using natural ingredients found locally in the nearby forest, and Manne, an 82-year-old Sami whose family have been herding reindeer since the 17th century. He supplies reindeer meat to ICEHOTEL, considered a delicacy in this part of the world.
Giles and Monica brave what can become as low as a minus 35-degree freeze with the inspirational team as they bring snow and ice to life - and prepare for their big night sleeping in a minus 5-degree bedroom.