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New igloo at Mancos State Park

CPW staffers build structure for winter campers

Mancos State Park has a new campsite for winter expeditioners – an igloo.

It was recently built by some staffers from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Southwest Region office, after they tested out the design in their own yards. And it’s available to be rented out for $18 a night.

“They’re pretty fun little shelters,” said Nathanael Bokelman, a CPW engineer. He’s built a few igloos by now, both for his family and friends, and now the state park.

Igloos have traditionally been used by the Inuit people in the far north, and are made of snow blocks formed into a dome shape.

The Mancos igloo was formed with the assistance of the ICEBOX igloo tool, which essentially is a “three-sided box” with a center pivot pole to measure out an exact circular shape, Bokelman said. Snow is packed into the box to make the blocks used for the igloo’s construction, and the pole is shortened as the igloo grows taller, since the higher layers have a smaller diameter.

It’s a very geometrical process, Bokelman said. The igloos they build are taller than they are wide, somewhat egg-shaped. (The technical term is “catenary,” meaning the U-like curve that a hanging chain would make.) For an igloo with a 9-foot diameter, the roof may be about 5 or 6 feet tall – a true hemisphere would have a roof height of about 4.5 feet, in order to match the base.

“It creates a more structural shape,” Bokelman said. “And also makes it nice, because you get a little more head room inside.”

This one took around 3-½ hours to build, and is about 30 degrees inside, said CPW spokesman Joe Lewandowski.

Bokelman and two of his children stayed in the igloo after it was constructed. His two sons were quite warm in their sleeping bags built to withstand zero-degree and 15-degree temperatures, respectively. Bokelman himself was using a sleeping bag warm enough for 30-degree temperatures – which might have been chilly were it not for the extra warmth of his terrier, who joined the crew, he said.

Of course, the igloo won’t last forever.

“The weather’s staying cold and we’re getting snow,” Lewandowski said. “So obviously when it warms up a lot it will usually melt. There is a little bit of a time element here.”

But igloos still remain intact for some time, particularly as the walls grow icier. Last year, Bokelman’s lasted through February, at which time his family was forced to dismantle the structure since they were moving.

“They settle, and as the days get warmer they definitely start to sag,” he said. “But structurally – they change shape, but the ice and snow consolidate so it actually ends up getting stronger to a certain point.”


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