Dallas Snider had exam fever by the third week of December.
The 22-year-old Red Deer College student was at home studying for his last exam of 2013 when he looked out the front window into his family’s massive, snow-covered front yard and let his imagination carry him away.
“I thought holy smokes that’s a lot of snow and that there must be something fun I can do with all that,” said the first-year bachelor of education student. “I was thinking maybe I could make a luge track to build from the roof of the house but then I changed my mind and decided I wanted to build a huge igloo. The idea took off and turned into a quinzee from there.”
A quinzee is made by hollowing out settled snow, whereas an igloo is made from blocks of hard snow.
Snider began work on the mammoth snow fort on Dec. 17 and finished just in time for New Year’s Eve.
The hollowed out, round structure used “hundreds of pounds of snow,” he said, and stands over two metres high at its core and at least six or seven metres in diameter.
He started by snowblowing as much snow as he could into a mound in the centre of the yard on his parents’ property near Red Deer. He then sprinkled water on top, then took a chainshaw and shovels to the white lump to carve out a space inside.
“I buried a couch under all the snow so it would end up inside it, kind of like the ship in the bottle idea where people always wonder how the ship got in the bottle.”
Sure enough, stoop and step inside the solid snow hut and there’s a brown, three-seat leather couch crowning the room along with a cooler, blankets, a framed painting hanging, Christmas lights and even a pretend electrical outlet stuck in the wall for a laugh, showing just how cozy the Sniders have made the quinzee.
Snider worked on it largely with his father and little sister, Telaina, 20, as well as Telaina’s friend, Miranda Smith.
His fiancée, Crista Oke, was in Florida during the building process and was blown away when she returned to find out just how big the project had become.
“She thinks it’s awesome and is pretty proud of me,” Snider said.
Seven or eight years ago, he said he recalls building a similar fort with his family but not nearly as big. He estimates he could get about 50 people huddled inside. At one point, they had 26 friends and family members in the quinzee and there was still lots of space, Snider said.
The children in the Snider and Oke extended families especially enjoy crawling into the fort through the zigzagging tunnel-like entrance (one of two entrances), which is braced by wooden beams for maximum support, he added.
“We had a great time with this. … It made me feel like I could do something and I took all this snow that so many are complaining about and did something fun with it. … The snow and cold doesn’t bother me; I’m glad I live in a place where there’s snow.”
Originally, Snider also wanted to have a spot in the centre of the quinzee where they could build a fire so he had begun carving out a chimney hole. In the end, he realized it would be too smoky and scratched the fire pit idea.
The dangerous risk of collapse comes with all snow forts but Snider said it’s less of a worry with this quinzee.
“You can knock on the walls and you feel how hard it is. We have beams in there too but we probably didn’t even need them as the roof is maybe only eight inches thick so I’m not worried about it coming down or being a hazard.”
To get such a thin roof, Snider used a plastic dowel with a piece of tape on it that he’d poke through the surface and bring back down until he felt some pull, letting him know that was where the roof began and when to stop shaving off the layers.
The quinzee has garnered a lot of interest in the community with all local media flocking to the scene.
Numerous Facebook posts from the public have also expressed interest in seeing it firsthand with their young ones but Snider said the quinzee will remain private.
“I was actually pretty shocked it was getting this much attention,” he admitted. “Never expected that. I just wanted to make use of all the snow.”
As the weather turns warmer, Snider said he’ll think about turning the frosty dome house into a snowmobile jump. In the meantime, he’s pondering whether to send in some photos to the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“Just to see if they’d air it,” he said. “Why not, right?”