Igloo in the Austrian Alps – A night in ice and snow

We were dreaming of building an igloo in the Alps and to spent the night in it. To resist winter’s rough coldness and to fall asleep in your own igloo like the Inuit or polar explorers. To be awakened from the first sun rays shining through the thin ice. This dream should come true in February 2017.

On the trails of the Inuit

Our trek of seventeen people stomps laboriously through the snow. We are now on an altitude of approximately 1500m. We are alternatively looking to the snow-covered trail, to the faces our companions, to the peaks of the Alps in front of us and back again. The effort is shown in their faces. The steps are becoming more difficult with every step, accompanied by a loud breath. Our equipment in the backpacks weighs heavily on our shoulders and is slowing down our pace additionally.

At noon we arrive at our campsite for the night. The untouched snow surface is surrounded by few pines and some smooth hills. Warm tea and the view to the beautiful Alpine peaks strengthens our tired bodies.


Soon we start with the preparations for the igloo building. We measure the snow depth, we define the building site and the place for the quarry. The sun is high in the sky and burns down to us, while we start to compress the snow with heavy steps.

We pick up the shovels and dig a trench between building site and quarry. With a ski pole and rope combined we circle the floor plan of our igloo and are beginning to saw the first ice blocks out of the quarry. The lifting of the ice blocks out of the trench is tedious. It rained a couple of days before and the block are breaking on the resulted intermediate ice layer.

The effort forces us to take small breaks again and again

 Ice block for ice block is lifted out of the quarry. Block for Block is placed on the line of the igloo floor plan. Sweat is dripping of our foreheads, the sun burns our necks while the first alignments rise. The ice block’s wetness run through our gloves, the snow’s creeps into our shoes. The time flies, more and more frequently we change between the block placement and working in the quarry. The sun was moving slowly while we started working, but as longer it takes, the sun is getting faster on its way to the horizon.


The coldness returns with the sunset and creeps into our clothes. We warm ourselves with hot tea, but try to avoid longer breaks which will cool down our bodies too much. The first igloo of our trek ist completed as it gets dark.

It is clearly smaller than our igloo and we have just half-completed. We planned to huge. Again and again the ice blocks broke, weren’t stable enough and keep falling down. Our nerves are on the edge, are we doomed to spend the night in the snowy Alps under the open sky? We look in each others eyes for a long time.

Giving up is not an option

We decide to support the other igloo builders of our trek and help them to finish their igloos. Again we are cutting ice blocks, carry them our of the quarry, set block on block, finish row after row, grout the joints with fresh snow and place the last keystone after hours of work. It is late after midnight and our power is depleted. We decide to eat some soup and to sleep with four of us in one slightly bigger igloo.

A night in ice and snow

We put dry clothes on for the night. A scarf and thick socks, completed with a beanie and hide deep in our sleeping bags.  The moon shines bright through the joints between the ice blocks. Slowly the coldness wanes and yields to the cosy warmth of the sleeping bags. The strenuous effort sends us satisfied to sleep.

After 6.5 hours we are woken by first sunrays. Drowsily we elongate our heads out of the sleeping bags and put carefully a foot into the cold wintry surrounding in front of our igloo.

The muscles hurt and the bones are cracking, but in the moment we see the mountain peaks with our self build igloos in our back, the effort is forgotten. With freshly brewed coffee we pass the hardships of the previous day and night in review.

We look into satisfied and delighted faces, knowing that we smile in the same way as our companions. We examine our last days work, pat ourselves on the back and are planning our next night in an igloo.


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