World's Wildest Snow and Ice Houses
Check out 14 of the world's craziest frozen creations, from a massive snow castle to a functional bedroom made completely of ice
Forget small igloos or backyard snowmen—sculpting with snow and ice just became a form of heavy-duty construction. That's quite an effort to put into structures that can take more time to erect than they stay standing! See how some of the world's most creative builders get the job done, and be inspired to upgrade your own snow fort this winter.
Asahikawa, Japan, holds a winter festival every February as a way for residents and tourists to enjoy the area's harsh winter weather. This huge snow castle towers over spectators at more than 80 feet tall and 250 feet wide; it was the center stage attraction during the 2009 celebration.
Completely constructed out of snow, this life-size house—it's four stories tall—features detailed windows and even a clock. It was a display at the Sapporo Snow Festival, the largest winter event in Japan, in 2010.
The structures at the monthlong Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China are some of the most beautiful and biggest in the world. Organizers cut ice blocks from the frozen Songhua River to be used for the buildings. This massive, glowing castle stands at over 150 feet and includes a replica of the Great Wall of China, which doubles as a 300-foot-long ice slide.
The SnowCastle of Kemi in Finland has been built annually since 1996 and is considered to be the biggest snow fort in the world, covering over 150,000 square feet. The building takes five weeks to assemble using snow made from the area's seawater (natural snow is too soft). Past castles have included a hotel, restaurant, and chapel.
Would you be willing to sleep in a bedroom made of ice? You have the opportunity, if you can brave the cold. Hotel de Glace is an ice hotel in Quebec, Canada, offering overnight stays in frigid rooms. It was the first hotel in the world to make a bed completely out of ice; arctic sleeping bags are provided.
The SnowKing Castle of Yellowknife, Canada, began with a few neighborhood families that built annual snow forts for the local kids. The tradition has blossomed into an event featuring a castle over 20 feet tall that requires a planning committee, funding, and a seasoned group of builders (first-year workers are called "snowprentices").
Construction begins on January 1st each year, with the building debuting in March. The team works by pouring snow into wooden molds, like concrete, and making the castle's windows out of sheets of ice.
The SnowKing Castle is so sturdy that pictures hang on the wall, creating an atmosphere more like a real home.
The ice castles of Midway, Utah, don't show the precision typical of other ice houses, but they're quite an attraction for the area. Creators spray water onto wooden frames to create the beautiful effect of each building. The ice builds up in layers over a period of weeks until the whole structure is at least 30 to 40 feet high and resembles a home (if you're a yeti).
This towering 100-foot-tall Chinese mansion is another creation to come out of the Harbin Ice Festival and it looks even better at night, with blue and green lights illuminating the ice. To secure the blocks together, builders use "snice"—a combination of snow and ice—as a stand-in for typical mortar.
Each year, organizers of the Quebec City Winter Carnaval build an ice palace for Bonhomme, the carnival's ambassador (he's a snowman-looking mascot). Bonhomme's palace spans 160 feet in width, boasts 65-foot turrets, and uses over 5,000 blocks of ice during the construction process. This year's castle even included a dungeon, which creators joked was for festival-goers who refused to honor Bonhomme's effigy.
This representation of the the Forbidden City in Beijing—a Chinese imperial palace that housed emperors until 1912—was featured at the 2010 Harbin Ice Festival. The exhibit included life-size ice steps and actual rooms that you could enter.
St. Paul, Minnesota, sees its fair share of cold winters. To disprove its reputation as an uninhabitable tundra, the city started holding an annual winter carnival. Each year, the main feature is a gorgeous, sprawling ice palace. The 2004 palace, seen here, was so large that workers used 27,000 blocks of ice to construct it. The highest turret dwarfs the crowd below with a height of 75 feet.
This two-story ice castle shows off the one of the many creative forms that an ice house can take. The Japanese styling paid homage to the Asahikawa festival, where it was on display.
This all-snow structure is a stunning one-quarter-scale replica of Nagoya Castle in Nagoya, Japan. The creators even recreated the massive stone wall that the castle sits on. The entire structure stands 45 feet high, including the base.