What excitement on the hill on Saturday on Frodo’s Bog when Peter Mair and Hermann Bruns shared their knowledge of igloo building on a brilliantly sunny day with the members of the Junior Race Team.
As each of the ski groups arrived, they enthusiastically helped Hermann with cutting the snow blocks with a saw, setting the blocks on the igloo wall where Peter would trim them with his saw – settling them into place, chinking the gaps in the walls with snow.
All had seen and been in the igloos that Peter and Hermann had built the past few years up by Cec’s Cabin, but this was the first time everyone had the chance to see and experience how they are built.
It is Peter who is the instigator behind igloo building in the Larch Hills. As a high school student in Prince Rupert he took an Outdoor Ed course that took the class up into the mountains behind the town and taught igloo building. Lots of snow then. Sadly, not now.
As Peter tells us, first you pack down an area to make hard pack from which the snow blocks will be cut. In the Arctic, the blocks are cut from settled drifted snow. However, since this is not the Arctic, we pack it by stomping on it. Then Hermann takes his saw – a regular wood saw – to cut snow blocks.
An area is packed down for the igloo and the base set of blocks is set in a circle. Then Peter takes his saw -– an avalanche safety saw – and cuts an angle in the first set of blocks so the remaining blocks go up in a spiral. One by one the blocks were brought over by the skiers and handed to Peter standing inside the igloo ring where he put them in place, fine tuning the fit with his saw and making sure each leaned in a bit, balancing each on the other.
As the igloo got higher Peter moved his operation inside so that the walls of the igloo wouldn’t be damaged by leaning over it. At this point a door had to be made so Jim cut through a spot in the wall, digging out a passageway with a shovel. Through this hole the final blocks were passed and Peter placed them strategically around the top then dropped in the key block and voila! An igloo!
I had the happy job of helping Peter inside and getting instruction along the way – even wielded the saw myself to fit a few of the blocks! As the igloo progressed, those kids not cutting/carrying/placing blocks were chinking the gaps. There was great hilarity along the way as groups of skiers would pile into the unfinished igloo and peer over the top. When the igloo was finished, it managed to hold 12 smaller-type skiers.
Later in the morning, while finishing off the second igloo, Peter and Hermann were joined by an enthusiastic gang of Midget skiers who returned to build an entrance to the first igloo, using the skills gained earlier that morning. Now it looked complete.
The igloos made previously by Peter and Hermann have an entrance down which one goes and climbs up the other side of the wall onto a platform which is traditionally the living space. Having a lower entrance keeps the warm air inside the igloo. However, in this case, the igloo was built on a bog and digging under the wall to make the entrance would have one virtually swimming!
Peter says to check out the NFB video on Two Inuit Building An Igloo to see how exact the experts are. Many thanks to Peter and Hermann for sharing their expertise with the dozens of race team kids – and the numbers of folks who dropped by to view the event.