We don’t have a word for it, but the Danes do. Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective, illustrative perhaps of the fact that it signifies plenty. It’s not just a quality of mind but also a treasured part of the Danish national character, a philosophy of life. It’s about finding the joy in your situation. In a northern domain, it’s a pursuit that necessarily involves embracing the cold, which is omnipresent.
But hygge is also about celebrating the many opportunities cold presents for getting cozy. It’s the quest for cozy and the value of cozy itself, a handy way of looking at the world if you live in an environment where things tend to the Nordic, temperature-wise. It also makes a sensible strategy for the rest of us—look at the bright side, embrace the hand you’ve got, find the joy, or, at least, shut up and deal with it.
Which is perhaps why it suddenly seemed an obvious idea on a cold winter’s morning to lean into hygge and drive a 640-horsepower Ferrari GTC4Lusso from my chilly New York home to frozen Quebec for a few days of getting extra bold in a land of cold.
To better embrace the cosmic chill, my first stop was the sleepy hamlet of Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, near Quebec City, where stands—in winter only—the Hôtel de Glace, one of two ice hotels in the world. (The other is in Sweden.) Built each year by dozens of skilled artisans who descend on a site adjacent to Valcartier, a winter sports park and conventional hotel, it’s a wondrous edifice but more spartan than it looks.
Key guest takeaways? No running water, no indoor bathrooms, and a heated porta-potty found just a 100-yard high-speed dash away in the minus-3-degree weather. Further setting the scene, a frozen, ornately carved room of your own, with a bed made of ice, a thin mattress, and a large sleeping bag, plus you and your thermal underwear attempting to access dreamland at 21 degrees, which sounds pretty cold for a hotel room but better than the subzero temp outside. There’s no need to come prepared, either—your phone battery will soon die, and your bottled water will freeze. But don’t forget a wool hat. Then zipper it tight and find the coziness in the no-joke sleeping bag they’ve supplied while you focus on the concept of warmth like you’ve never focused before. It will come, and when it does, it’s a near religious experience. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that few ice hotel guests ever spend more than a single night and fewer still consecutive nights.
But with all this power (514 lb-ft of naturally aspirated torque, too) comes responsibility as expressed in 21st century Ferrari’s now-implicit promise that its handsome repositories of millionaire money are serious distance runners with, in the GTC4’s case, genuine all-weather capability and practicality. If it’s all it purports to be—and the company was relaxed enough about its capabilities to loan it out for a long jaunt to Canada—why not in the spirit of hygge embrace the cold with this exotic steed and use it just as one might use any other car?
The Ferrari rolled down wintry roads as confidently as anything else, coming prepared with rear-biased all-wheel drive and sophisticated traction control.
Settling into the leather-lined cabin for the first time, the idea made instant sense as a cruising altitude of hygge perfection is quickly achieved. Dark, tasteful Cuoio brown leather seats present as Italianate but splendidly cozy. With premium materials and switchgear robust enough for long-distance duty, the Lusso is not far off a high-end Mercedes for bank-vault solidity. It steers wonderfully and rides nicer than most, comfortable but composed and ready to take advantage of as much of its ample horsepower oversupply as a driver and the car’s electronic stability- and traction-control systems deem prudent. Nothing rattles. Everything works and then keeps working for close to 1,500 brisk, often snow-slammed miles—wipers, washers, heat, Bluetooth phone, and an infotainment system with an optional passenger display that’s many kilometers on from the appalling interfaces that blighted so many Italian conveyances of recent memory.
The Ferrari rolled down wintry roads as safely and confidently as anything else on them, coming to the fight properly prepared with rear-biased all-wheel drive and sophisticated traction control. Our test car’s optional 20-inch rims are painted, forged, and sporting Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3s. I was as glad to have the big grip of big, fancy winter tires then as I am ecstatic now that I won’t be paying to replace them when their time comes.
For re-entry to the truly cozy after the night of sleeping on ice and a day spent driving on snow, I headed the next day for Haut Bois Dormant in Notre-Dame-des-Bois, a charming (and well-heated!) bed and breakfast where chef Julie Demers prepares world-class meals—dare I say cozy—with local ingredients at set bargain prices. Nearby, the International Dark Sky Reserve and Mont-Mégantic Observatory offer spectacular views of the northern skies, thanks to the region’s unparalleled lack of man-made night lighting.
Temperatures plummeted traveling through Canada, but comfortable seats and potent seat warmers meant there were no disappointments in the cosseting ways department, and the all-glass panoramic roof lit up the cabin of the grigio ferro metallic test car considerably, making the rear seating positions airy and quite plausible if your legs aren’t too long. Front and rear cameras reduced terror in parking situations, but the absence of a wiper for the rear windscreen did seem an oversight and a hygge disincentive.
From here it was on to Hôtel Nelligan in frosty Old Montreal. It’s named after a teenage poet who wasn’t right with the world; he spent the better part of his life, unaware of his fame, in a mental asylum, which the sleek hotel surely does not resemble. In Montreal, however, you could go nuts in the name of coziness continuously assaulting your corporeal being with indigenous fare such as smoked meats, bagels, and poutine, plus too many others to list. So I did.
Happily there were dry stretches of pavement despite the cold on the ride back to America and home. And here is where the cozy really came in. For as good as the Lusso proved at trundling through the muck, its tractable engine, aided and abetted by a nine-speed paddle-shifted gearbox, made for exciting times where the tarmac was dry and the coast was clear. As sweet as a sewing machine but with the pull of a locomotive, if I be granted permission to pile up some clichés on the Ferrari V-12’s behalf, it’s blessed with a soundtrack and affect that happily toggle between strong but mild to blisteringly explosive. I don’t know what this has to do with hygge exactly. But it helped me find the joy within.