Having stayed in Sweden’s ice hotel, Walter is a clever rabbit when it comes to spending the night in ice. Also an Alpine hare, as it turns out. I, being Italian, like my ice in the form of gelato melting in the sun. Nevertheless, good sport that I also am, I let myself be inveigled to spend a night in Zermatt’s Igloo Village…
I really have no cause to complain about bad weather: the view of cloudless Matterhorn is overwhelming! It’s just that, without any protective cloud cover, the temperature drops so abysmally that during our overnighter the mercury hovers around minus 20!
Oh lord, how is this ever going to end well?
Dressed in about five (!) layers of thermal undies, functional shirt, fleece pullover, down vest and ski jacket we tromp up to Igloo Village, located between Riffelberg and Gornergrat at 2,727 MASL. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the wool cap, gloves, and two pair socks that I’m also wearing. Hey, it’s not like I jump for joy at ice and cold like a penguin…although dressed like this I could be mistaken for one. Or, at the outside, maybe even for the Michelin Man?
Well, be that as it may – the 360-degree panorama with Matterhorn and 28 more 4,000 meter peaks is still overwhelming. So much so, that I forget for a short while how cold it really is and am content to simply take in the stunning Alpine scenery around me.
The Romance Igloo Suite
Aldo Balatti, the pleasant manager of Zermatt Igloo Village, brings me out of my reveries back into the cold present. He gives us a tour of Europe’s highest-altitude igloo village including a quick peek in the Romance Suite before the lovebirds who have booked if for the night arrive…
I am pleasantly surprised by the impressive snow and ice artistry on display. I really had not imagined the cold stuff could be this stylish and romantic! The suite comes with its own whirlpool and a terrific full-frontal view of Horu, the name the natives give the Matterhorn.
After the mulled wine apéro and a tasty fondue, the Igloo team takes us on a short snowshoe hike into the frigid, starry night! But I’m slowly getting used to the cold and could swear I’m beginning to discover the Eskimo in me.
Still and all, I just cannot warm up to the thought of hopping into the hot communal whirlpool before going to sleep. Although everyone talks a good game and they bravely put their names down on the sign-up list. Because not all 30 guests are going to fit into the whirlpool at the same time.
Of course, Walter, acting cool as always, tells me:
“Oh, c’mon, go for it!” …When hell freezes over!
Instead, I take a cup of tea close by the fireplace in the adjoining Kota log house and let the blaze warm me, so that not only is my heart warmed but my whole body. (A small editorial note: “Cool Hand Walter” also passed on the whirlpool. He said he was doing it for me…).
Finally comes the time to retire for the evening, in our case to a Romance Igloo Room. Clad in nothing more than thermal underwear (!!!) we crawl quickly into our double sleeping bag. The air is biting cold; I pull my cap down lower over my face and wrap a thick muffler around my neck. Sweet dreams…
To my surprise, I don’t freeze once during the night and feel like I had a pretty good night’s sleep.
The morning after…
The next morning, Aldo’s team wakes us with a cup of hot tea. I get dressed quickly, having had the foresight to take my clothes into the sleeping bag with me. Emerging from the igloo, we step into a fairy tale scenery: it is an overwhelming sensation… this quiet, the majestic Matterhorn at sunrise while all still slumbers in the Village. No doubt, I will remember this overnighter for a long time.
An experience that you won’t mind turning into a penguin for!
An igloo world record
The Igloo Village GmbH by now has seven locations: Davos-Klosters, Engelberg, Gstaad, Zermatt, Stockhorn in Switzerland and abroad there are Igloo Villages at the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain, and in tiny Andorra.
The company celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016. For the occasion, a 14-person team built the world’s biggest igloo! At nearly 10 meters high and 12.90-meter diameter, the snow and ice structure made it into the Guinness World Records Book. It took them 2,000 hours to finish the job. Wow! Icy congratulations!
…to Corinne Ulrich of Zermatt Tourism for the invitation and Aldo Balatti and team for the explanations and the “village tour.” :-)
More impressions of Zermatt Igloo Village:
And here, Walter the photographer stages Instagram star Fabio Zingg. Or the Matterhorn (in the visor). Or himself. You can never be quite sure with him…