Make winter's chill part of travel plans

December 17, 2006|By New York Times News Service

It's official - freezing is in fashion. Last month in Paris, the Four Seasons Hotel George V opened a luxury ice bar, bringing a Gallic twist to a Nordic novelty.

The bar was built entirely of ice in a refrigerated cube in the hotel's courtyard. Guests were given a black rabbit-fur Kaufman Franco poncho for their 30-minute session inside the boudoir-style interior, which is kept at a frosty 18 degrees. While the hors d'oeuvres won't cure frostbite (ice bars and sorbet), the flavored vodkas (ginger, cinnamon and vanilla among others) served at the glacial bar just might. The bar is open daily, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. until Jan. 15, and the entrance fee of 55 euros (about $72 at $1.31 to the euro) includes drinks and amuse bouches (similar to hors d'oeuvres). Reservations are required; call 33-1-49-52-70-06.

The newest place to stay this year - as soon as the weather cooperates - in the elite ski resort of Gstaad, Switzerland, will be the Igloo Village (iglu-dorf.com, 41-41-612-27-28). Eskimo wannabes can opt to stay in a two- to six-person igloo for a night, with a near-guarantee that they will be the first on the piste in the morning. A night's stay starts at 99 euros per person (about $130), and includes dinner in the hotel lobby, right next to the open-all-day Igloo bar, and breakfast.

Quebec's Ice Hotel will be open Jan. 5-April 1, with several new features, such as a private spa and children's playground - all made of ice. Its lowest-priced offering with a stay in the hotel is the Picture Perfect Package at about $150 per person. It includes a night's accommodations, a welcome cocktail (on the rocks, of course), access to hot tubs, photos and a video and breakfast. The hotel is in Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, just outside Quebec City. For information, go to icehotel-canada.com.

In northern Slovakia, the latest spa treatment gives new meaning to the term "chill out zone." At the CryoTherapy Center at the AquaCity resort in Poprad (www.aquacity.sk), patrons wearing only a headband, shirt, shorts, socks, clogs, gloves and a face mask enter two chambers. The first is cooled to 76 degrees below zero for 30 seconds to a minute, the second to 184 below zero for two minutes. (Bear in mind the coldest natural temperature ever recorded on Earth was 128.6 below zero, in Antarctica.) Afterward, clients are taken to a gym for a 20-minute medically supervised aerobic workout in which the subsequent release of endorphins is said to help alleviate depression, stress and pain.

One CryoTherapy session costs 550 crowns (about $20 at 27 crowns to the dollar). Double rooms at AquaCity, which also has nine geothermal outdoor pools, start at 3,790 Slovakian crowns (about $140), including breakfast and dinner. Guests are allowed up to two sessions a day.

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