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Russia's first snow hotel, with a volcano to keep you warm

By Olga Gertcyk
17 October 2015

Sunbathing in snow and swimming in thermal pool included.

Sunbathing on the snow and relaxing in snow hotel - the best way to learn Kamchatka. Picture: Vitaly Lazo

Ice hotels have become popular in several countries but the new one in Kamchatka - 'more snow than ice' and due for launch in spring 2016 - is to be in the shadow of a volcano and will offer a thermal-heated outside swimming pool to keep you warm. 

It will be located at spectacular Vilyuchinsky volcano, some 70 kilometres from regional capital Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The igloo-style accommodation will allow guests to sleep in comfort even with outdoor temperatures as chilly as minus 30C (though probably it won't be this cold). How much? Around 90 euro ($100) a night. 

At first there will be ten rooms, although the aim is to increase the occupancy in future. The eco-friendly project is offered by tour company 'Gornaya Territoriya' ('Mountain Territory'), a well established operator in Kamchatka, known as the Land of Ice and Fire for its awesome glaciers and volcanoes which constitute some of the world's most breathtaking scenery. 

first snow hotel in Russia

First snow hotel will be opened in Kamchatka. Picture: Mountain Territory 

Vitaly Lazo, who heads the company, said: 'We mainly organise ski tours, but in the coming season we decided to surprise tourists travelling to Kamchatka with some unusual accommodation. A special sleeping system was designed to make guests comfortable. You can sleep there at about minus 30C, although the temperature inside the hotel will be about zero. There will also be a swimming pool with hot thermal water and a heated cafe.'

The idea was recently presented at Expotravel in Yekaterinburg, where we caught up with Vitaly.

'The hotel will be the first of its kind in Russia. They've been very popular in Europe for a while. I haven't been to them - and I actually don't want to because we don't want to copy their experience, but to go our own way. We've gained enough expertise and we have a solid team of professionals to generate ideas without referring to or copying someone else's experience.

first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia
'Our 24/7 outdoor swimming pool with thermal comes with water from local springs'. Pictures: Vitaly Lazo


'Actually it is going to be a snow not ice hotel. We will use several construction technologies: a traditional one, construction out of frozen blocks, and a more modern one which allows for building snow castles up to 5-to-6 metres high. The walls will be decorated with various carvings using traditional local ornaments - Koryak and Itelmen for example.

'We're currently talking with the decorator and some of the interior and exterior elements will be made of wood, and part of the decoration will be made of ice.' He explained enthusiastically: 'Our team is putting their heart and soul in this hotel'.

There are myriad activities and opportunities for tourists - Russian and foreign - who venture here.

first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia
A must-see is a frozen waterfall about 50-metres high and about 10-metre in diameter. Pictures: Vitaly Lazo


'We offer both free ride and sightseeing travel packages which comprise walking and snowmobile sightseeing tours, visiting a local fish market, seeing the amazing stone birch forest,' he said.

'Stone birch is a very special tree, they grow in Kamchatka and look a bit bizarre.' He laughed: 'They're both ugly and beautiful, every tree is unique. 

'Another thing to see are the hot springs that come from as deep as 3 metres down in the snow. Then, obviously, volcanoes. One of them is the magnificent Viluchinsky. It is not a part of a mountain range, it is 2,170-metres high and stands alone, so that you can actually see how large it is. 

Another place to see is Avachinsky volcano, 2,741 metres high, which is still active. There is a great view on the Pacific Ocean and another, Zhupanovsky, volcano. 

'A must-see is a frozen waterfall about 50-metres high which resembles a massive standing icicle 10-metre in diameter.

'Sometimes we even climb on it, but to do that, you need to have special training. There are special sled dogs - Husky, Malamute, Laika - and you can have a ride from Zaozernyy village to the ocean shore which is about 7-8 kilometres away, and is covered with black volcano sand.'

first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia
Black sand of Kamchatka's beached. Pictures: Sergei Shmigelsky, The Siberian Times


The hotel will be working in March and April next year. 'In March, when it opens, it's unlikely the outside temperature will drop below minus 15C. In April it should be minus 5C to minus 7C. That's when we actually sunbathe on the snow if it's not windy. You can either dig a niche in snow or simply put a towel on the snow. But you do need to be careful and use a sunscreen. 

'Our 24/7 outdoor swimming pool with thermal comes with water from local springs. It's so-called 'light water' where you can stay for hours. The temperature can be adjusted. 

'The hotel complex will comprise several buildings. Apart from the pool there will be a massive lobby (7 metres in diameter, 4-5 metres high) with a reception desk and a bar with a fireplace, though, an ice one. A room for 6 will be the same size and will be connected to the lobby.

'There will also be another 3 or 4 separate igloo-rooms for 2 or 3 people.'

first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia


first snow hotel in Russia
Kamchatka in autumn and spring. Pictures: Igor Shpilenok


'Each room will have a snow bed base about half-metre high with a soft mattress and sheepskins on top. Then there will be a special multi-layer 'sleeping system' with individual duvets. The sleeping system is different from a sleeping bag, - you can adjust the temperature inside. The rooms will also have storage areas - shelves carved in snow.

'The hotel complex will also have a shower with hot water. The will be a separate 8-metre tent with heating'.

Tourists will have an experienced team catering for their security, ready to scare away any stray bears. 

'We're planning to open more hotels later,' he said. 'Our project is environmentally safe, we will take away all the rubbish with us, so the hotel will melt to the ground. And that's what we're trying to instil in the heads of our tourists. We will serve drinks in shot glasses made of ice, we even developed a special technology to manufacture them, and we'll also offer mainly local cuisine, specially fish. 

The company's website in English is at: http://mountain-territory.com/en

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