Many may remember "Snowmaggedon of 2017", as well as the winter of 2019, which also had a considerable amount of snow. In fact, February 25, 2019 ranks fifth on the all-time list of daily snowfall in Bend!
We may not get quite as much snow this season, but more often than not the city transforms into a veritable winter wonderland at some point during the year. People not only pray for the arrival of the fluffly white stuff, they pounce on any opportunity to immerse themselves in it. They ski, snowshoe and snap photos of the beautiful, frozen landscape. Kids dig tunnels through the yard, build huge snowmen, have snowball fights and of course, attempt to build snow forts and igloos!
As far as we know, igloos were first built by the indigenous cultures of the Artic or Inuit and Eskimo, as they are known. They lived in cold, snowy conditions year round which made it necessary to utilize the surrounding landscape and materials for survival. They dressed in animal furs to keep warm, they burned seal blubber to maintain a long lasting heat source and they hunted local game. During hunting trips, the Inuit also built igloos as temporary shelters. These are the "snow houses" that capture our imagination today.
From sandcastles to treehouses to igloos, humans seem to have an innate desire to create from nature. Most every kid (and adult) has dreamed of building the perfect snow house at some time. A quick search online leads to images of some astounding snow structures built by impressive snow architects. Many look like they learned from the Inuit themselves!
So, when a blizzard hits and the kids are home from school, why not embark on building your own family snow fort or igloo?
There is an art to building a proper fortress, but with a little planning and foresight, anyone can build one capable of impeding invaders!
Obviously, there has to be plenty of snow. The top, fluffy powder doesn't cut it. It's the denser, more compacted stuff below the surface that works best.
To begin, make a circular trench to represent the size of the structure, then decide on the shape of your igloo. Traditionally, igloos are dome-shaped, but you can adjust the design to your preference. A typical igloo has a diameter of about eight to 10 feet, but start small, at least on the first try. The larger the igloo, the more complicated the undertaking.
Use molds to create the snow blocks. Believe it or not, Amazon has molds specifically for making igloos. (I mean, what do they not have?) Using different sizes of sturdy plastic containers or milk cartons also works well.
Start by placing the blocks around the edge of the trench you've marked. Slightly angle each block inward as you go higher, creating a spiral pattern. This creates the characteristic dome shape of an igloo. Ensure the blocks are tightly packed and interlocked.Start by placing the bigger blocks on bottom and gradually build up with smaller blocks. Pack snow into any gaps, sort of like cementing a brick wall. This will fortify the structure.
If it's cold enough (below freezing), pour some water on it. A hose (although it might be too cold to get those out), a spray bottle or pitchers of water from the sink will work. The water will quickly freeze, and the layer of ice will hold everything together longer.
Leave an opening for the entrance. Make sure it's low to the ground to trap warm air inside. You can also create a small ventilation hole near the top to allow for fresh air exchange while minimizing heat loss.
As with any outdoor adventure, safety is important. Cold temperatures can be brutal, and the last thing we want are the kids (or overzealous parents) getting frostbite. The little ones might be having so much fun they forget to mention how cold they are!
Keep kids protected with plenty of layers, gloves, a beanie, a scarf and whatever else will keep the bones warm.
Building a memorable snow structure is not a quick process, so be patient. Take a break, return inside for some hot cocoa, sit in front of the wood stove or fireplace, if you have one. It usually stays cold for days at a time so plan to add to the structure a little bit each day.
Don't expect perfection, especially the first go round. It's most important to remember that this should be a fun endeavor. Think of it as quality time with the kids. Who knows, maybe they'll become an engineer or architect one day because they learned the intricate process of building a traditional snow fort or igloo.
You can find adventures for every time of year in Josh's book 100 Things to do in Bend, Oregon. Get it online or in local bookstores. You can also join the Facebook group of the same name for updates!