Lessons Learned About Making a More Ambitious Colored Ice Block Igloo in Vermont

WILLISTON — Since January was freezing, I decided to try my hand (or, really, cold little fingers) at making a colorful igloo out of ice blocks.

I first attempted the monstrous project last year, as I shared with Free Press readers, and was delighted with the result. I thought this year I could make it bigger and stronger and came up with some ideas to make the building part more enjoyable. I achieved at least two of my three goals. Can you guess which one failed? Hint, I didn’t trade a thaw in early February. More on that later.

This piece is meant to share with you what I have learned, so that you may benefit from my trials and triumphs. In particular, there are three videos you can watch. One is a how-to guide so you can see the steps in action. Another video shows time-lapse footage of the structure being erected. Finally, a presentation of the completed project.

Igloo take 2, bigger and much more exhausting

As I dreamed of making my second igloo even more interesting, I considered a variety of designs. What I really wanted was a big common central structure in the middle and two small connected igloos. But I gave up on that idea after determining that the number of ice blocks I would need would more than double what I used last year. If only I knew then….

First igloo, 2021:How to turn a classic winter igloo into a colorful play space

So instead I decided to go a little bigger. I would attempt a diameter of 9 feet, two feet larger than last year, to give me just enough of a challenge. After building the base, I realized the actual size would be more like an 11 foot diameter. This came to me just as I was about to lay my first block.

The adage “measure twice, cut once” came to mind, but it was too late. I was already committed and the time to let another base freeze would put me at least a day behind, maybe more because I would lose a weekend day.

I knew it would take a lot of me, but I was determined. In the end, it took 10 days to build (with four weekend days in there). A few days into construction I realized I had taken on more than I could handle and my husband graciously offered to help. My son helped here and there for a chance to receive his “chore” stars. I know it’s not technically a chore, but it sure is like that most of the time.

As we watched the weather, a three-day stretch of spring temperatures approaching 40 degrees in early February threatened to halt the project which had already taken weeks of planning and freezing blocks of ice and already many hours of work. start construction.

With headlamps on, my husband and I placed block after block and finished the project by 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday, February 1. The plan was to hose down the entire structure to allow the whole thing to be encased in a sheet of ice. while the temperatures were still below zero. We did it. We were cold, exhausted, sore and so overwhelmed at that point. We would have plenty of time to enjoy it later.

Here are the statistics of this latest creation:

  • 10 days to build (a few hours every day after work and 6-8 hours on weekends).
  • 15 rows of blocks (33 on the base layer).
  • Six colors of ice blocks.
  • 345 blocks of ice in total used.
  • Inside diameter of 11 feet.
  • Internal height of 5 feet 11 inches at tallest point.

Ways the process has improved

There are several things I tried this year that made the building process less laborious or strenuous. First, I bought knee pads to go under my pants because I learned that kneeling on ice doesn’t make knees happy. I also bought some foam puzzle mats and cut out the size circle needed to place it as an indoor mat. The mat helped with kneeling during construction and provided a surface that did not transmit the cold and had more cushion while spending time inside the igloo.

For my fingers and toes, which cool regardless of the number of layers, I used gloves and socks that provided battery-operated heat. I can’t say enough about the mitts that stay warm.

This time I drew fill lines in permanent marker on the plastic tubs used to make the ice blocks. Even though some freeze unevenly as the water expands, they were still more similar in size.

I also used an extension cord to light up the igloo at night with Christmas lights surrounding the interior.

More hours to do than to stand

My experience last year showed me that I could make an igloo in a week and make it last a month. For me, it was a reasonable exchange for something interesting, which I made with my own hands and which helped me to enjoy the winter. And, there was enough time for it to be used by my family and our neighbors.

I’ve worked to make this one sturdier by paying more attention to each seam, making sure I incorporate as much of the fondant binding mixture as possible.

In the end, my plans weren’t up to par with what the weather had in store for us. After I finished my master creation which took all my energy and created pain in my muscles that I had never felt before, the thing took less time than it took to build. In 48 hours, I saw my creation, my dream and my obsession of several weeks literally melt away.

What destruction Mother Nature has wrought.  The front side of the igloo after two days of spring temperatures on February 3, 2022.

I could be crazy; I am certainly sad. But, I’m also proud. My family and I have created something truly amazing, in my opinion, and we have done it together. I have videos, lots of photos and a pleasant evening spent using the space.

I’m heartbroken most of my time creating the thing and not using it, but I think there’s something in there about letting hard work be its own reward and enjoying fleeting moments, or something that I’m sure I’ll come to appreciate in the days to come. It will certainly be connected in my future memories of the pandemic winters when things didn’t go as planned but we learned to find the simple victories. At least that’s what I tell myself now.

Will I make another? Probably not.

But I am available for consultations.

Contact reporter April Barton at [email protected] or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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