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Takes your brrrrrreath away

If you can't get enough of winter, check into an ice hotel. Temperatures are brisk, but the cool factor is white hot.

February 12, 2006|Kathy Chin Leong | Special to The Times

WHO wants to be a human popsicle? Apparently, tens of thousands do. Igloo resorts, made entirely of ice, are a growing trend, and they offer everything a thawed resort would, including vodka bars and wedding chapels.

There may be as many as a dozen ice hotels. The most popular are in Alaska, Sweden, Canada, Greenland and Finland.

Unlike traditional digs, the icebox dwellings are temporary, crafted with tons of snow and ice. Most are built in December and last until April, except for a new one in Alaska, which is now year-round (with refrigeration equipment).

Rooms are maintained at a cozy 22 to 28 degrees. And for guests who just can't brave such frigid conditions, a traditionally heated lodge is usually available too.

Fairbanks, Alaska: Ice beds with caribou pelts beckon the adventurous at the Chena Hot Springs Resort's Aurora Ice Museum. It was first built in 2004 and is the only one in the United States. The museum -- it's not called an ice hotel because of state laws that require hotels to have in-room sprinklers -- has giant frozen statuary, such as jousters on horses, chess pieces and chandeliers that change hue with rotating lighting.

For $575, you get use of all four of the museum's ice rooms, which measure 110 feet long by 40 feet wide by 30 feet tall, and a dip in the natural hot springs.

Cool factor: Guests can sign up for a three-day ice-sculpting glass for $1,800.

Information: (907) 451-8104, www.chenahotsprings.com.

Quebec: So you want to get married, eh? Being able to exchange vows at the Ice Chapel is part of the allure at the 30,000-square-foot Ice Hotel, now in its sixth season. The hotel has 34 rooms and suites, several with decorative fireplaces.

Cool factor: Chill at the N'Ice Club lounge or go for drinks at the Absolut Ice Bar, where bartenders serve vodka in glasses made of ice.

Rates start at about $180 per night.

Information: (877) 505-0423, www.icehotel-canada.com.

Jukkasjarvi, Sweden: The original Ice Hotel has been around for 16 years. Guests can choose among 60 rooms and suites. This $400-per-night frozen icon has a chapel, art exhibition hall, cinema and bar.

Cool factor: A $1,000, 90-minute dogsled ride takes guests from the airport to the hotel.

Information: 011-46-980-66-800, www.icehotel.com.

Kemi, Finland: The LumiLinna SnowCastle is also the home of the Mammut Snow Hotel. The Snow Hotel, in Finnish Lapland, has 29 double-occupancy rooms and two family suites; rates vary but are somewhere around $265. An on-site, all-ice restaurant serves hot and cold fare. Can't you just taste that Baltic herring soup?

Cool factor: The quasi-amusement park comes with its own signature snowball characters, Arttu and Genie, that roam this Disney-esque winter resort, probably seeking heat.

Information: 011-358-16-259-502, www.snowcastle.net.

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