Does the thought of ever-higher levels of comfort in Alpine accommodation still leave you cold? If so, consider sleeping on snow or ice instead this winter.
The first ice hotel opened in northern Sweden 17 years ago. A second opened in Quebec in 2001. Both offer spectacular ice carvings throughout as well as signature Absolut Vodka ice bars where wonderfully coloured cocktails are served in ice glasses (you can safely drink three before they start to leak). The ice bars have developed a life of their own and are now opening in glass freezers in Europe. London and Milan are the latest.
The idea is spreading. In December, Sun Peaks in western Canada will become the first ski resort to offer an ice hotel. And not just your average ice hotel: a "Boutique Ice Palace". Room options include four themed VIP suites with electric fireplaces. These will give "the ambience of having a fireplace but no heat", according to manager Anne Wright. They also offer flat-screen TVs (though these must be always left on to stop them freezing) and wireless internet.
Despite temperatures that are a "comfortable minus five", sleeping in these frozen art galleries doesn't come cheap - a deluxe suite in the original Swedish ice hotel, now with some 80 rooms, will set you back 6,000SKr (£440). The hotels melt away each spring and are rebuilt every winter from more than 20,000 tonnes of snow and ice.
For a slightly less luxurious and rather more affordable experience, the Kanata Igloo Village at Valmorel in France offers bed and breakfast in their simple snow structures for just €15 (£11) a night.
The igloos are of traditional Inuit design and can sleep between four and 10 people. Internal temperatures won't drop below freezing and can reach a balmy 15 degrees Celsius with just four people and a candle, according to the operators Stéphanie Triacca and Cyrille Puigmal. Each guest is supplied with a comfy mattress and polar sleeping bag. There's a restaurant (of sturdy wood and stone construction) on site, which provides dinner and après ski. Skiers should take the Bois de la Croix chairlift and will find the village 100m away.
You don't need to have snow walls in order to sleep on snow: several varieties of camping experience are available from traditional to space age.
New in Hemsedal, Norway, this winter is something rather old - a lavvo. Built wigwam-style from tree branches and animal skins, lavvos were used by Sami herdsmen before snowmobiles. The lavvo is one large room with enough space for between six and 20 people, in sleeping bags on reindeer skins around the open fire - so unless you arrive in a group, you'll be kipping down with strangers. The Hemsedal experience begins with a sleigh ride into the forest in which the lavvo is located, where you enjoy a traditional Norwegian dinner. After breakfast you can try ski-joring - being towed behind a horse on your skis.
If you like your camping futuristic then book in to Whitepod. This "eco-friendly camp" for just 10 guests - two to a pod - is 1,700m above Villars in Switzerland. Tents developed by Nasa provide accommodation; each has its own wood-burning stove. The emphasis is on using natural and locally sourced products.
Quebec Ice Hotel: 00 1 877 980 0600; www.icepalacehotel.com. Double rooms from C$572.50 (£275), including breakfast.
Sun Peaks Ice Palace: 00 1 877 980 0600; www.icepalacehotel.com. Sun Peaks packages with Frontier Ski can include an Ice Palace stay from £117 per person per night on top of a one-week room-only package deal from £819; 020-8776 8709; www.frontier-ski.co.uk
Kanata Igloo Village: 00 33 6 22 32 24 61; kanata.igloo.free.fr
Hemsedal Lavvo: Thomson (0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk) offers Hemsedal packages from £557. Book the lavvo in advance with the tourist office in Hemsedal (00 47 32 05 50 30; www.hemsedal.com); the standard price is 500 Norwegian Kronor (about £45) per person including breakfast, dinner and some activities; minimum five people.
Whitepod: (00 41 79 744 62 19; www.whitepod.com). Dinner, bed and breakfast costs Sfr205 (£90) per person per night, with a minimum stay of two nights.Reuse content