I think it was our first winter in Alaska that I saw a rainbow ice igloo for the first time. @Alaskakids, who I later met and became friends with, posted their ice igloo to Instagram. Their family had collected an exorbitant amount of milk cartons and proceeded to use these to freeze their bricks in. I thought this ice igloo was SO COOL, and instantly knew I wanted to make one.
However, at the time my oldest was not yet two, and I recognized that making an ice igloo with a toddler following me around was likely not going to go over well. So instead, I waited a few years. Now that toddler is seven, I have a new toddler, and an infant. For some reason I decided that now would be an easier time to create our own ice igloo. I’m still not sure what I was thinking…
How We Made Our Igloo
I waited until the end of November to begin our ice igloo. This is because, in our area we generally have below freezing temperatures after this time. I really didn’t want my ice igloo melting on me after I began work on it!
I chose to use disposable bread pans as our brick mold. My son would carry jugs of water from our downstairs bathroom (we do not use our outdoor tap during the winter due to freezing concerns), and I would pour this water, along with a coloring agent into the pans. At 10°F and below we could generally freeze two sets of bricks a day in each bread pan. The closer to 32°F, the less likely we would get even one set of bricks frozen each day.
My son and I started out by mapping out the permeator of the ice igloo by laying ice blocks, leaving a space open for the door. Then we went back through, using a mixture of snow and water to place the mortar between the ice blocks. If you do not have a lot of snow, you may not be able to create enough mortar to finish your ice igloo.
Starting with the second layer, we used mortar on the bottom of each ice block in addition to the sides. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was more efficient for my son to refill the water jugs and bring more snow, while I packed the ice bricks together. By the time we got a few rows up we had a pretty effective system going where I never had to stop packing bricks to fetch additional snow or water. Due to the fact that we didn’t have sufficient supplies of bricks, and the need to care for a toddler and infant, we were only able to complete around one layer of ice bricks each day.
We continued with this until the layers got to be around knee height. At this time, I began to stagger the ice bricks so they were only halfway on top of the brick below them. The other half of the ice brick would hang over the side, toward the center of ice igloo. I was able to do this with the use of the snow mortar.
Then I began making the entryway for the ice igloo. I used three bricks on each side and built small walls going out for the opening I left for the door. I built this area up until I thought it would be reasonably tall enough for me to crawl through. Then I began to stagger my bricks closer together, using the same process as the main walls.
Finally, when the layers got to about my shoulder height, I used the mortar to create “shelves” to set the ice bricks on. This was a precarious process, and I did have a couple ice bricks fall on me. I did not let my son enter the ice igloo when I was working on this part of it, because I was afraid of possible injuries. Using this technique, I completed the ceiling of the ice igloo.
I have been asked many times, how long it took to complete the ice igloo. This answer is complicated. We were rarely ever able to spend more than an hour a day working on it. In addition, about a week after beginning the ice igloo we received 4+ feet of snow over a short period of time. This added lots of additional work, with the need to dig out the igloo before continuing work on it. In truth, it took us around a month. It was a big commitment, especially with two small children who were really not able to help with the process.
My oldest started to get really excited about the ice igloo as we drew closer to finishing it. He began to talk about making another ice igloo in the future. I told him we could make one again, but probably not until his siblings were a bit older.
Check back soon to read what I would do differently next time we decide to make an ice igloo!
Want to see more of our ice igloo? Check out additional photos and videos on Instagram @Fromthestates !