Igloo Building in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park, Alberta

By Caroline Shin
Staff Writer

Chill out in your own homemade igloo in Jasper National Park. It would be a Canadian Rockies experience that’s hard to beat. Building a real igloo is hard work, however. So grab some friends, some snacks and drinks, and get to work!

How to Build an Igloo in Jasper National Park

Build your own igloo in Jasper!

Build your own igloo in Jasper!

* Snow shovel
* Ice Axe / Pick
* Hand shovel
* Hand-held ice saw
*A four-sided mold. Find rectangular containers, like garbage cans. You’ll need at least two different sizes of these. The first one should be about 12″ long, 6″ high and 4″ or 5″ wide, and the second one should be a bit smaller, say 10″ x 5″ x 3″ or 4″.

Step 1: Find a suitable spot
A hard field of snow is required to build an igloo – hard enough to make solid snow blocks. Even if the top layer of snow is soft, hard snow can usually be found underneath.

Step 2: Mark a circular base
Clear a flat space in the snow on the ground and mark out a circle shape, trying to keep it as perfectly round as possible. Use your sticks to make a circle, marking the base of the dome. The snow depth should be at least 3ft. where the igloo is placed. Don’t make it too big.

Step 3: Make the snow blocks
Large blocks are used at the base of the dome, smaller ones at the top. You can make extra strong blocks by setting them up to harden in the wind.

Place the larger four-sided mold onto a flat board and tightly pack snow into it, forcing or ramming in as much as you can. They should be solid enough to be carried horizontally without breaking by their own weight.
* Sprinkle a little water on the snow, if it is too dry, to make it easier to pack it together tightly.
* Hold the mold a little way up in the air, once it is completely packed, and tap the top or sides of it sharply to release the snow block. As one person makes the snow blocks, another can start building the igloo.

Step 4: Start the construction
The edges of each snow block should be smoothed and angeled correctly to make a strong bond to the adjacent blocks. Form a row of the large blocks around your circle. Make the joints smooth and even, as there is no mortar for binding the blocks together. If necessary, force loose snow in to fill up the cracks and crevices as the igloo is built.

Form a second layer of the large blocks on top of the first, laying each block above of the joint of the ones underneath, thus staggering the blocks.

Stack additional layers on top, each time moving the bricks in slightly so that the walls will dome inward.

* The first course of the snow blocks should be thicker than the others, and the thickness of the walls gradually decreases toward the top. As mentioned earlier, however, size variation may not be necessary, depending on the height of the igloo.
* The building is best continued with one person inside the structure and one on the outside to ensure an even inward slant, gradually making a dome.

Step 5: Top it off
Cut a cap brick that is close in size, but definitely larger than the hole on top of your igloo. Two people should lift the brick up and set it on top of the igloo. One person should get inside the igloo and trim the cap as needed until it fits snugly into the hole.

Step 6: Fill in the cracks
Fill in the cracks and holes with snow and pack it in as tightly as possible. Smooth out the inner dome walls as much as possible and carve longitudinal grooves inside to allow the melting snow to flow outside without dripping on you.

Step 7: Make the entrance
Dig down to make an entrance to the igloo. If you build it on a gentle slope, then the entrance hole can ramp up slightly into the cave. This will allow the cool air to ‘fall out’ through the entrance and the warmer air to stay inside.

Step 8: Strengthen the structure
* Drip water over the top of the igloo at night before going to sleep. This will allow the water to freeze and will make the walls stronger.
* Poke a small hole near the top, and then light a candle inside the igloo and let it burn. The heat from the candle will partially melt the inside of the igloo, and then it will refreeze into ice, making your igloo stronger.

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