Sleeping in an Igloo!
It’s one of those weird things I’ve always wanted to try, so when my family wanted to know what to get me for my birthday I sent them a link to the Igludorf.com website. The response was mixed… “Omg, it’s like extreme SAS survival training!”, and “But how do you sleep when its actually freezing cold?” and from my dad; ”Make sure Tony doesn’t stick to the ice toilet!”
We ended up being lucky enough to get squeezed in to a Friday night reservation because it books up pretty fast. It was a glorious bus ride up towards the ski resort village of Kuhtai in Austria, and I was SO EXCITED when it changed from rain in Innsbruck to heavier and heavier snow as we drove higher. By the time we arrived it was almost a blizzard! These snow-flakes were the biggest I’ve ever seen, like Australian 20 cent pieces and so incredibly fluffy! The hardest part was actually finding the Igloo Village, because looking for white domes made of snow in heavy white snowfall was a bit tricky…
But find it we did, and it was adorable! A huge central igloo held the bar, with another one built onto the side of that one and a ring of smaller igloos opposite. They were actually joined together instead of completely freestanding, each about four meters tall with proper wooden doors.
After taking a few photos we gathered in the bar igloo for a welcome drink with around 22 other people. Mmmm! Hot Glu Wein, which we enjoyed sitting in a icy throne carved into the shape of a polar bear. It was cold inside but not painfully so because we were wearing so many layers. The bar was a huge slab of ice imported from Belgium, and big urns were hooked up to heat the drinks. We sat on little benches on top of sheep skin rugs and admired the soaring ceiling and the rather slippery ice floor.
It wasn’t until the welcome talk began that we realized something….We were the only non Austrian or German people there, and the only ones who didn’t speak German! There followed 30 minutes of nodding and smiling at Danni, the very energetic host, who haltingly assured us we would get the English version when her Dutch partner arrived. All the native speakers trooped outside to view the igloos which all had different designs carved into them while we got an abbreviated version from one of the ice sculptors.
It turns out, these aren’t the traditional igloo construction, these guys worked with technology to get things moving a lot faster and safer. Step one was to inflate a huge 8 meter wide balloon, then they used huge snow-blowing machines to dump snow over the top. They used snow guns from the nearby ski resort and the endless hydroelectric dam water to create as much snow as they needed. After 5 hours of moving snow on top of the balloon they would leave it to settle down and freeze for a day before they deflated the balloon. Then they used massive chainsaws to cut to entry tunnels and doorways – in most places the walls were 2 to 3 meters thick. Then they repeated the process using smaller balloons for the sleeping igloos!
Three ice artists carved the sculptures in the main igloo bar and the sleeping igloos and they installed lights (and usb phone charging sockets, how 2019!). For the beds they used a wooden frame and filled it with snow, waited until it was set then took away the frame and tidied it up before adding a foam insulating layer, a mattress and then the sheep skin rugs and sleeping bags.
However… you do NOT have to pee on an ice toilet! As mentioned before that could cause some sticky situations, so they provided a heated toilet block just ten meters away. There was also a sauna in a little shipping container, and we were advised that If we did get too cold in the night to get in the sauna… or go and dance in the toilet block, which would be kept at a balmy 20 degrees!
Tony was most excited about dinner. Served in the igloo bar, about a kilo of bubbling cheese was delivered to our table with a massive bowl of chopped bread to dip in it. And dip we did… many many times! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much cheese in my life. It was delicious, all warm and gooey and mixed with wine and garlic and tasted amazing.
After dinner we got to do something I’ve always wanted to try… Snow-shoeing! Despite the heavy snow still falling we strapped on big flappy snow-shoes and set off up a hill. You have to walk with your legs a bit wider than normal so you don’t trip yourself up (Tony, being uncoordinated at the best of times, fell all over the place). You can go up very steep hills, which we did in a long row like ducklings, as the guides lectured us about ancient trees and local history… in German. It was so much fun, and we got to trek though the deepest, softest, whitest snow I’ve ever seen!
Dessert after our snow trekking was pieces of brownies with cream and nuts, and we sat in the bar trying to chat to our new friends and drinking hot wine.
I convinced Tony to come on a walk around midnight because it was still snowing so much. We made snow angels and rolled down hills into piles of fluffy snow. I just stopped him from rolling down the steepest hill of all which (we discovered the next morning) went straight down into a snow covered river!
Last thing before bed Tony stripped off (you knew it was coming) and ran off to the sauna.
On our block of snow bed, we’d been provided with two minus 18-degree sleeping bags which had been zipped together and a double sleeping bag liner. Just before we got in we were advised to put on clean dry socks (very important advice!) and we snuggled up together in our thermals and beanies.
And… I slept really really well! Our combined body heat kept us toasty warm, not even my nose sticking out of the sleeping bag was cold. It was the best night’s sleep we’d had all week.
Breakfast was served in a nearby hotel, a buffet table full of food… we ate everything except the cheese 😉
It was an amazing experience, so many thanks to my family for the gift, it’s something I will never forget. To anyone who was wondering if they could survive such an experience… DO IT!
Lots of love, Roo x x x
TONY’S NOTE: Only one thing bothered me about this whole ordeal. The sadistic guides fed us our bodyweights in cheese, then put us into small, sealed igloos for the night… Man, I pity the guy who came to wake us up in the morning – you could cut the air in there with a knife! A cheese knife…