When you first think of a snow building, an igloo immediately comes to mind; it is the most famous of all snow buildings. Igloos are mainly associated with the Inuit people, but they have also been found throughout Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. Scientifically, the best way to build an igloo is to lay snow blocks in a spiral. Igloos are constructed of independent blocks of ice leaning on one another in a dome pattern. Although there may be extremely cold temperatures outside an igloo, inside can be as warm as sixty degrees. Amazingly this is due to the natural insulation properties of snow. Igloos aren’t the only type of snow buildings. All around the world people are building all sorts of snow structures. Here are a few:
Each year the town of Kemi witnesses the construction of a castle made entirely of snow. The construction of the fortress takes five weeks and is built on the coast with a new floor plan and different towers each time. Regular snow is too soft for this job so they make their own using seawater and snow pipes. The ice for the furnishings and decorations is pulled from the Gulf of Bothnia, the northernmost area of the Baltic Sea. The castle is complete with passages, a hotel, restaurant, bar, sculpture gallery, and more. What started out as a novelty now forms a tradition and draws about 100,000 visitors every year. Many of the visitors spend the night sleeping in the Snow Hotel, demonstrating the true meaning of sleeping “on ice.” The building stays open from January through the beginning of April.
Every year, during the cold winter, the pristine waters of the Torne River in Sweden slow down and freeze into ice. It is then that a group of passionate artists gather together in the town to build an Ice Hotel. This arctic wonder is a treat for the senses. Beginning in November, over 10,000 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow are used to create the main hall, a church, and bar as well as unique suites for about 100 guests. Accommodations in the seasonal winter hotel range from standard ice rooms to more elegant suites. The art suites offer a special experience. Each suite, designed by a commissioned artist from all over the world, is ephemeral and completely original, and unique. When the spring comes, the hotel is left to melt and find its way back to nature.
Each January, tourists from around the world visit the Harbin ice and snow festival. A “magic snow city” is constructed with snow and ice complete with life-sized sculptures of monuments and buildings. Swing saws are used to carve ice into blocks taken from the frozen surface of the Songhua River. Chisels and ice picks are used by ice sculptors to carve out intricately designed attractions. De-ionized water can also be used, producing ice blocks as transparent as glass to make clear sculptures rather than translucent ones. Past festivals have featured cathedrals, temples and a replica of the Great Wall made completely out of ice. Everything is enhanced with multi-colored lights that give the snow city its magical glow in the winter’s night.
Thousands descend upon the Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada which has been held since 1894. The people of Quebec have often faced hard winters and this carnival was introduced as a way for them to enjoy themselves from the end of January to mid-February. This event has been held for more than 60 years. The centerpiece of the festival is Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, where the opening and closing ceremonies are held. Each year is a new design that always impresses. In the past, it has even included a dungeon!
If you want to try to make your own snow building, here are five tips to help get you started:
- Get out your kitchenware. A loaf pan or plastic Tupperware can be helpful at packing your snow bricks together to make a snow fort.
- Add a little food coloring to your snow for some extra flare.
- Be a designer and use a rake or a stick to add patterns to your design.
- Get out when the snow has been around for a while. “Older” snow is firmer and better for construction.
- Bundle up yourself and your family and get to the snow building!
Creating a snow structure in your own backyard is a fun family activity. Teach your children about igloos, snow houses, and how different families live in extremely cold weather. This lesson will surely teach them to appreciate the warmth and comfort of our homes.