For those who, in view of the snow masses, are ready for building: A conversation with the Swiss igloo Felix Sprecher about simple and complex snow houses.
In southern Bavaria and several alpine regions, snow has fallen more than it has been for years. In some places in the mountains, disaster alarms have been declared, avalanches are threatening, children can not go to school. Elsewhere, the situation is more relaxed – and that's where the snow starts. The supreme discipline is the igloo. The only question is: how do you build something like that? Felix Sprecher, 39, from Basel, founded the association "Iglubauer" with five friends. He organizes excursions in the nature including Igloo direction and overnight stay.
SZ: Mr. Sprecher, suppose I want to fulfill my dream of the snow house, how do I deal with that?
Felix Sprecher: There are different methods. The easiest way is to shovel a big pile of snow, to condense and hollow it out. The name Quinzhee means a snow hut, the word comes from the language of the North American Indians. Quinzhees built many during their childhood. But that's not a particularly exciting option.
If you want to build real igloos, you have to act differently. We use a saw to cut blocks from the snow. We put a first row of it circularly on the floor as a floor plan, cut it diagonally so that a kind of circular triangle is created. Then we put the other blocks on the surface, so we build the igloo spirally upwards. The blocks are cut to size with the saw and fitted. The higher we build, the smaller the blocks become, until the dome is closed. We plaster the gaps between the blocks with snow. When we build more complex constructions such as multi-part arches, we see one-to-one the way people used to build their Gothic churches.
The blocks were made of stone back then.
This is an advantage of the igloo building: snow is very easy to work with, that's why this material fascinates me. For wood or metal you need bigger and bigger machines. Snow is easy to saw, it is relatively stable and can withstand a lot. I can build a small igloo with a saw and a shovel in two hours. I do not have to calculate angles or cut exactly. Even the transience of the igloo I find beautiful.
What is the danger of an igloo collapsing when sitting inside?
When it's cold enough, the igloo stops. It only crashes when it gets too warm. Once we had outside a little over zero degrees Celsius, in the igloo by the body heat about five degrees – the snow stopped. Another time a warm Föhnsturm was fatal to us. But the whole igloo has never collapsed, but only a part. That's not so tragic, you do not have to be scared.
What should people pay attention to in an igloo?
I have extremely great respect for open fire, be it a candle, a gas cooker or similar. I would not use that in the igloo. It would be devastating if clothing or a sleeping bag catches fire. I would not rule out that fire burns too much oxygen. Otherwise, there is always enough breathing air in the igloo. It is not particularly dense, as enough air flows in.
Who will contact you for an igloo overnight stay?
Teachers organize experiential excursions with their students. Seniors seek adventure, a 60-year-old once made a handstand on his igloo. Couples give it to each other, families want to experience something together. It is important that everyone comes along voluntarily. This is not always the case for company outings. That is not easy then.
What scares people?
Many are surprised how exhausting the construction is. For two we need between five and six hours, until the igloo stands. That is physically demanding, but also psychologically. The igloo sometimes collapses during construction, then people have to start over again and get motivated.
And in the end you sit in his snow palace and freeze?
There are already measures against the cold. For example, a mattress filled at best with down or foam. The entrance must be lower than the lying surface, so that the resulting body heat remains in the igloo. Sometimes we put backpacks in the entrance, so that the cold air from outside does not pour in so badly. For one night, it is very important to go into the sleeping bag when warmed up: turn ten laps around the igloo and then in. But it can also be too much heat. Once a group wanted to eat fondue in the igloo. This went well until the igloo collapsed because of the heat.