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Building an igloo – the quintessential snow camping experience

Just when the onset of spring seemed inevitable, Sweden was hit by a fresh bout of snow last week. Rather than mourn the brevity of the season, however, Amanda Henke found an unusual way to enhance the experience of late winter. Armed with only a snow saw and a tarpaulin, she and her husband headed for the hills to build an igloo.

Building an igloo – the quintessential snow camping experience

When cold-induced lethargy creeps in, and Sweden’s spring has not yet fully sprung, inhabitants of more northerly climes are left with only a couple of options – give in to hibernation or fully embrace whatever the season hurls at us.

It was the lure of the unusual that convinced my husband and me to leave behind the cozy warmth of home and venture off into the unknown to sleep outside in the wintertime.

Some may have considered us crazy, but we were not to be deterred by such murmurings. I cannot remember exactly what put it into our heads but once the idea took hold it was impossible to ignore.

What would it be like? How hard could it be? Would we be cold? Would it be fun? This last question I was able to answer without hesitation. Of course it would be fun. How could it not be fun to construct our own lodgings out of snow?

The activity beckoned irresistibly while I was still living in Canada, as my husband and I were intrigued by this traditional shelter of the Inuit. Our first attempt was such a success that the desire was re-kindled to try this distinctive camping excursion again.

So it was that we found ourselves heading northward in the car on a sunny and early winter morning, bound for snowier landscapes than could be found in Gothenburg.

Norway was our destination, as we could get to deep snow sooner there than in Sweden. Upon arrival in Lillehammer, we made our way up the ski hill past the town and headed towards Nordseter.

Along the way we happened upon a pullout close to a logging road where we could park our car. Since we neglected to bring snowshoes with us, this was a perfect spot to explore and discover the right location to construct our igloo.

We slung our packs on our backs and began the trek along the deserted road. The snow on either side was pristine and untouched, save for the animal tracks here and there. It was quiet and beautiful. We found a good place to build in a small clearing and set to work.

On our previous excursion, the snow was ideal for packing and we made the blocks by packing snow into a rectangular container. This time, our hope was to have the right conditions to carve the blocks straight out of the snow.

Much to our delight, the snow proved perfect for cutting. While I cut the blocks and passed them to my husband, he shaped them and carefully put them in place. Soon the beehive formation of the igloo began to grow, and we were delighted to see the fruits of our labour.

As the sun began to fade, we hurried to finish the last few rows. The clear sky turned to dusk, and the brilliant stars began to shine as the last two blocks were set in place to seal the top. Our shelter was complete.

Unloading our gear inside, we placed a tarp on the snowy floor with our sleeping pads resting on top. Armed with two sleeping bags each, we were confident we’d wake up warm and cozy despite the wintry cold outside.

What makes being in an igloo so amazing is the incredible silence produced by the snow – all sounds are completely muted. In this peaceful atmosphere, we comfortably settled into our beds, closed off the entrance with our packs, extinguished the candles, and snuggled in for our well-deserved rest.

The white light of morning permeating the blocks of snow woke us to the happy discovery that all our extremities were toasty warm. On removing our packs from the entrance, we saw that a 10cm snowfall had gently blanketed the landscape during the night.

Impressed by the serenity of our surroundings, we took a few moments to enjoy the quiet peacefulness that fresh snow brings. Mindful of the long drive ahead, we reluctantly packed up our gear, took one last look at our handiwork, and headed back – leaving behind one last seasonal salute to our wintry escapades.

Tips for packing:

– bring two sets of warm clothes – one for building the igloo and one for sleeping

– waterproof gloves and outerwear

– tent – just in case!

– snow shoes

– snow shovel

-snow saw/machete to cut snow

– container to pack snow as a back-up method

– water, food, camping stove

– good sleeping pads

– warm sleeping bags

– tarp

– first aid kit

– candles

Tips for igloo construction:

– build where snow is deep – at least 1metre

– carefully trim blocks for a tight fit to ensure strength of the igloo

– cut a vent hole for fresh air

– cover the entrance for added warmth

Check out the following websites for more detailed igloo-building instructions:

Wikipedia

Ben Meadows

US Antarctic Program (pdf)

TRAVEL

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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