Jean-Pierre Pardy is quick to give away his trade secret.
"The secret to being warm in an igloo," says Pardy, "is to sleep naked." But with the thermometer hovering at -25°C and the north wind gusting solid sheets of snow, our group of seven campers is skeptical. No one is volunteering to strip off any clothing.
"An igloo is not cold," guide Mona Bellau explains.
"It stays a steady 3 to 5°C because snow is the world's best insulator. Much warmer than ice," Pardy adds, in case any of us were considering Quebec's more luxurious frigid option, the Ice Hotel.
Along with his business partner Jean-Luis Canet, he operates Village Igloo, one of a handful of igloo camps in Canada. Located 30 kilometres north of Quebec City, their camp is unique in that it offers urban dwellers an opportunity to experience a disappearing aspect of Inuit culture.
Bellau, a young Inuit guide from Nunavut, conducts the cultural orientation for participants.
"Technically, Village Igloo builds quinzees," she explains. "They're used in Quebec because the snow is softer than in northern Inuit climates. There, it is almost like sand."
Due to temperature differences within the layers of snow, specific steps are needed when building. First a giant snowball between 2 and 3 metres in diameter is created. Then wooden dowels are inserted to between 30 to 45 centimetres until the snowball looks like a porcupine. Once solid, the inside is scooped out until the dowels are reached and a raised sleeping platform is made to keep the occupants above the downward - flowing cold air.
As we assess our homes for the night, Pardy points to an opening the size of a microwave. When we crawl inside, we find a low ceiling and all sounds muffled. The structure has a small hole in the roof for ventilation.
Back inside the nearby clubhouse, Bellau shares stories from her culture while we wrap sealskin across our knees and enjoy Inuit herbal tea of cranberry and juniper.
She explains how the Arctic is changing rapidly due to global warming and gas exploration, so more Inuit live in prefabricated homes than in igloos. But, despite changing customs, Inuit life continues to be based on the migration of wild game and survival in a harsh climate.
With thoughts of harsh climate in mind, we pick up our survival gear from Pardy: one candle, one flashlight, a sleeping bag, a liner and a walkie-talkie to call the night watchman in case of emergency (or a potty visit).
Outside, the night sky is black and fresh snow is falling. A full moon, fuzzy as though wrapped in a gauze scarf, rises over the Laurentian Mountains. Bidding one another bonne nuit, we head to our respective igloos.
I'm sleeping solo, so mine is the smallest. I slither inside, dragging my purse behind me. It's surprisingly cozy, and the fresh fragrance of pine rises from the layer of boughs beneath my sleeping tarp. A pillar candle glows steadily on a piece of birch trunk.
Sleeping inside an igloo is like being in one of those glittery snow globes that sparkles when you shake it. Shivering at first, I settle further into my sleeping bag, and the chill gives way to warmth. Deep silence surrounds me.
The next morning, I awake to the glow of sunlight. My water bottle has frozen solid overnight. Although there's some frost along the edges of my sleeping bag, I'm quite warm. Beyond the narrow door is a layer of fresh snow from a light winter storm over Mont Tourbillon. Pardy's already busy working on the repair of one of the igloos.
Over a hearty Quebecois breakfast in the canteen, all the campers agree that there's a certain magic to sleeping in an igloo - naked or not.