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Archive for January, 2013

Snow Buildings

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Until this week’s warm spell the skiing has been spectacular. The grooming has been non-existent due to the low volume on the trails. No matter, with temps remaining in the single digits or just below zero at night with highs in the 20s the skiing surface remained packed powder and never glazed over enough to require a scuffing. In the past teo weeks the groomer has been used for forty-five minutes and the amount of skiing dome by me has been about twenty hours. This is a fantastic effort to reward ratio.

The community has been skiing quite a bit too and the new trails are well received. As a 6th grade school project, my daughter is taking a GPS trace and creating trail maps to leave at intersections. The class is using computers and this project encompasses the use of peripheral data acquisition devices (GPS), available data bases (Google Earth) and basic data manipulation. The signs will also be bi-lingual for the occasional Spanish speaking visitor. The project is really an exercise in thinking and planning.

With no trails to groom and too much time on my hands I needed something to do with the limited snow available in the yard. Grooming is a great way to play with snow and create something for people to enjoy. I love playing in the snow and with snow. I just love snow and should have chosen a different career path so I could be paid to do something with snow.

Several years ago the family went to Quebec to race a biathlon at the ValCartier venue just north of the city. While I raced at this fantastic venue, the family went to a snow tubing park and heard about the Hotel de Glace (, about twenty minutes away from the venue. The idea of going to some stupid tourist trap bummed me out. Was my pre-judgment wrong. The Ice Hotel was huge, filled with rooms and artwork, had a bar and slide inside and worth the trip to see it. The place was spectacular and amazing and somewhat inspiring.

The Hotel de Glace helped add to my desire to play in the snow. I had built quinzees and other snow caves and these were fun but lacked imagination and WOW factor. The purchase of an igloo form ( made for some great outings and we built igloos for the elementary school.

The idea of building some sort of ice fishing shelter with rooms and only a door to remove come springtime or building a few shelters along the trails or maybe a snowmobile trailside snack bar made entirely out of snow. I have always wanted to throw a skiing party during a full moon and having a snow shelter along the way might be a fun place to stop, have a drink and a bon fire.

To accomplish this idea, a lot of snow needed to be moved quickly and the form needed to allow for a variety of floor plans. A catenary shape was built using the available materials, hinged so it would collapse away from the snow, moved , re-erected and continue the build. I built it and the snow=less winter last year kept any trials from happening.

With the recent snow the kids helped me add a few hinges, screw an old pair of skis to the base to move it and I borrowed a snow blower to begin the field trials.

The photos tell the story pretty well.

The warm weather hammered the snow and the forecast is for a few inches to fall. Hopefully enough to groom and ski and support my snow building habit. The grooming is fun too.

I’m fairly certain the green and yellow tractor company would cringe and claim improper use seeing photos of their product’s augur being tied into the “RUN” position. It worked great and kept me from lifting too much snow. Might also be a candidate for a Darwin Award if things go bad.

After covering the form with snow, the screw-jack was collapsed and the form pulls away from the sintered and hardened snow. Note the crack at the upper form joint. It did self heal.

The screw-jack allows the form to collapse so it can be removed and repositioned for the next course or length of arch. The black strap at the bottom keeps the form from spreading too much.

The form repositioned to add more length to the quonset hut snow building.

After reinstalling the snow fences the addition of snow begins.

The trail runs past about ten feet from the snow blower. If the resolutions is good enough you can see how much snow is needed to create a four foot long, seven foot high and seven foot wide at the base snow shelter. The snow in the yard is about 10″ deep

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