How To: Build an Igloo

By | January 1, 2015
From Xplor: January/February 2015

Even though it’s frozen, snow is great at trapping heat. Inuit hunters in the Arctic figured this out long ago and have been keeping cozy in igloos ever since. You can build an igloo, too. All you need are a few tools, a few friends, and lots of hardpacked or slightly slushy snow.

Build an Igloo

  1. Push a stick into the snow where you want the center of your igloo to be. Tie a 4-foot piece of rope to the stick. Tie the end of the rope to another stick. While keeping the rope tight, walk around the center stick to scratch a circle in the snow.
  2. Use a carpenter’s saw (or a bread knife) to cut hardpacked snow into bricks. The bricks work best if they’re about 2 feet long, 1 foot tall, and 8 inches thick. You can make them smaller if they’re too heavy. If the snow is too slushy to cut, pack it into 3-gallon storage tubs. Flip the tubs upside down and gently shake out the bricks. Wait 20 minutes before working with the bricks to let them freeze solid.
  3. Place a single layer of bricks around the circle. Use your saw to cut a gentle slope from the top of the last brick to the bottom of the first brick. When you’re done, the bricks should spiral like a coiled-up snake.
  4. Begin stacking bricks, one beside another, working your way around the spiral. (It’s easiest if one person works inside the igloo and another works outside.) Trim each brick to fit snuggly against the bricks on either side.
  5. As you build up the walls, shape the bottom and top of each brick so that it leans slightly toward the center of the igloo. If you forget to do this, you’ll build a tower instead of a dome.
  6. Cut a brick that’s the same shape but slightly bigger than the opening at the top of the igloo. Place it over the opening (you may need a tall adult to help). From inside the igloo, carefully shave off extra snow until the brick slips into place.
  7. Pack any cracks in your igloo with loose snow, and smooth out the walls by hand, inside and outside. Last, cut out a door. Remember: It’s easy to make the door bigger, but hard to make the door smaller. Start small.

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Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
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