Located a few kilometres from Manali, the frosty hotel in Hamta valley is expected to last till March-end this year.
Winter vacay with Igloo stay! India got its first Igloo hotel at the beginning of 2017. Back then, two youths from Himachal Pradesh, Vikas Kumar and Tashi Dorje, had decided to build an igloo as an experiment for tourists to stay at. Now, the duo’s Keylinga Himalayan Adventures has built five igloos to host tourists for the fourth season. The entire business is managed by six people, who build the igloos manually, make and transport the food for the guests and cater to the needs of the tourists.
Located a few kilometres from Manali, the frosty hotel in Hamta valley is expected to last till March-end this year, according to Vikas. Talking to FE Online, Vikas said that they keep the number of igloos low because an igloo takes a long time to build and requires a lot of maintenance. “With six men, we can build an igloo in 3-4 days. We’re only able to work for a few hours during the afternoon because in the morning and the evening, the snow is in a powder form, making it hard to bind. We have to ensure that the Igloo is sturdy, therefore, the walls are 1.5 foot thick,” Vikas said.
Typically, to be able to host tourists, Vikas and Tashi have to start working on their igloos a month in advance. As soon as the snow is 2-3 feet deep, they get to work. This season, due to heavy snowfall, they were able to get started as early as December 12.
Traditionally associated with people from Central Arctic, Greenland and Norway, Igloos for winter stay quickly captured the attention of tourists. The influx of customers started rising and as compared to last year, Keylinga’s Igloos witnessed a 40% increase in the footfall, according to Vikas. He attributes this increase to favourable weather and the cooperation from the private company that manages the road leading to the Igloo camp.
Keylinga offers night stays as well as day trips to the Igloo camp. The people who opt for night stays get to participate in adventures like skiing and snowboarding and activities like evening bonfire. During the day trip, tourists can take part in adventures like skiing and snowboarding. This group is usually kept small for efficient management. “This year, we have been getting around 20-25 tourists every day including the day-trippers and the night guests. This is a good number for us. We usually keep the number of people limited as we have to teach people how to undertake these activities. We want to focus on teaching everyone.”
Apart from teaching tourists snow adventures, Keylinga also provides them with all meals and hot beverages. All of these meals are prepared at the base and then transported to the camp, everything is done by the six people running the business. Every 10 days, they call for an additional few people for maintenance works on an outsourcing basis, but otherwise, the six people pretty much work on their own.
Despite being a house of snow, the Igloo is surprisingly warmer than outside air. Vikas says this is because the ice is a good insulator, so it does not let the heat flow out. The bedding provided in the Igloos along with the body heat of the tourists, make the Igloos 7-8 degrees warmer than the open, he adds. “I’d say the Igloos are toasty-warm.”
Talking about how Vikas and Tashi conceived the idea, Vikas said that as locals, they used to visit the ski slopes. “We would stay in tents, but it was a bad idea. It was difficult to stay in tents due to the wind. So, one year we built an Igloo, misshapen but an Igloo nonetheless. That was how we decided to make an Igloo hotel. Then, for 6-7 years, we used to go to the slope every winter and try to build Igloos and figure out what changes were needed. We asked ourselves if it was too small or too big, whether it was warm enough. We needed enough confidence to know that our structure would be stable to host tourists since we couldn’t compromise with their safety,” Vikas added.
While a day trip to the Igloos will cost the tourists Rs 1,500 per person for skiing and snowboarding, a night stay would cost Rs 5,500 per head. So this winter, enjoy the snow just like an Eskimo! Visit the Igloo hotel in Himachal Pradesh.