Buildings Made of Snow

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The world’s largest snow castle in Kemi, Finland Photo courtesy Zolton.

The igloo, of course, is the most famous of all snow buildings. They are mainly associated with the Inuit people, but have been found throughout the Canadian Arctic region as well as Greenland. Igloos are constructed of independent blocks of ice leaning on one other in a dome pattern. Although there may be extremely cold temperatures outside an igloo, amazingly the inside can be as warm as sixty degrees due to the natural insulation properties of the snow. But igloos aren’t the only type of snow buildings. From hotels to castles to entire villages, people are building all sorts of snow structures around the world. Here are five of our favorites:

SnowCastle of Kemi
During the last blizzard you may have made an awesome snow fort, but we can tell you that you’ve got nothing on the town of Kemi in northern Finland. Every December local builders spend five weeks constructing a castle, restaurant, chapel, hotel, theatre, and play land for children. Regular snow is too soft for this job so they make their own using sea water and snow pipes. The colder the snow the better, they say. Local architects design a new version of the castle every year, so it’s a unique experience each winter. The SnowCastle stays open from January through the beginning of April when it remains quite cold.

The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi in the far north of Sweden.

If you happen to be visiting Jukkasjarvi, Sweden between December and April, you may want to try out the ICEHOTEL. Each November, over 10,000 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow are used to create a main hall, a church, and bar, and unique suites for about 100 guests. When complete, it’s the largest snow-and-ice hotel in the world! If you think that’s a dubious distinction, you should know that there are also ice hotels in Canada, Finland, Norway, and Romania.

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
Each January tourists from all over the world descend upon Harbin in the Heilongjiang province in northeast China for the International Ice and Snow festival. A “magic snow city” is constructed from snow and ice with life-sized sculptures of monuments and buildings. Past festivals have featured cathedrals, temples, and a replica of the Great Wall made completely out of ice. The sculptures are enhanced with multi-colored lights that give the snow city its magical glow in the winter night.

ICIUM Wonderworld of Ice
Borrowing Chinese designers from Harbin, the ICIUM Wonderworld opened for its second season this December in Finland. Last year, the buildings included snow re-creations of the Helsinki Cathedral, the Beijing National Stadium, and the Chinese Temple of Heaven. More than 350,000 cubic feet of snow and 21,000 cubic feet of ice were used to build the sculptures. The buildings are presented more for display than functionality, but last year there was also a Great Wall of China slide for kids of all ages.

The Ice Palace
The best Mardi Gras party isn’t necessarily in New Orleans. If you want to try a chillier alternative, you should join the thousands who visit the Quebec Winter Carnival, which has been held since 1894. The centerpiece of the festival is Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, where the opening and closing ceremonies are held. Each year there is a new design, but the palace is always impressive. In the past, it has even included a dungeon—so follow the rules or you could end up in snow jail!

Do you want to try to make your own snow buildings? Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Bring out your kitchenware. A loaf pan or even plastic Tupperware can be helpful at packing your snow-bricks together to make the perfect snow fort.
  2. Color your snow. Add a little food coloring for some extra flare to your snow building.
  3. Be a designer and use a rake or stick to add patterns to your design.
  4. Time it just right. Snow that is not freshly fallen is firmer and better for complex construction.
  5. Bundle up and involve the whole family.

This post was created in relation to ICEBERGS.