The silence is so intense, it’s almost shouting at us. The sky is full of stars and they seem to stare at us. At the people between numerous mounds of snow. The people, who are going to sleep in an igloo.
We are climbing into the cable car that gets us up to 2,000 meters to the snow village («Schneedorf») in Hochoetz. It is situated in Tyrol, one of Austria’s most popular regions for mountains, snow and skiing. And in the midst of it all, a bunch of creative people built a snow village. Every year, they place a couple of big and strong balloons onto a snow field, cover them with artificial snow and let it freeze naturally. They add more snow if needed and nature does the rest. As soon as the snow is strong and thick enough, they pull out the balloons. The result: perfectly moulded sleeping wholes, or otherwise, igloos.
A big mound of snow with sleeping wholes
There are no individual igloos, like you know them from eskimo villages. It looks like a big mound of snow with wholes to sleep and eat in. We are «warmly» welcomed (*pun intended*) to the common area, which is in fact a big igloo with separated niches, a bar and tables with stools covered in fur. The snow village people show us how to use the professional sleeping bags properly, how to warm up before going to bed and how to use the equipment in the igloos. All this accompanied by hot wine – which is delicious, by the way 🙂
The sleeping bags are kept in a warm area, where we can put our stuff, too. Just on the other side of this luggage room, there is the secret weapon of the village that is based on snow and ice: a sauna. Whenever people get cold, they gather here, warm up for a couple of minutes, and leave again. This is also what we are supposed to do, just before going to sleep: Spend some minutes in the saune, with your full night clothing and the sleeping bags. The sleeping bags as well as your body store the heat. After warming up, you walk back to your igloo – ideally, barefoot (if you dare…).
Bonfire and cheese fondue
Right after sneaking into every single one of the igloos on the site, we gather again with our fellow eskimos for the night. We are served hold and cot beverages and a cheese fondue. Everybody who knows me also knows that I don’t eat cheese. Whaaaat? Yes, it’s true, breathe in and out again 🙂 However, you can also order your Tyrolian snack plate, which is basically loads of meat (and cheese again ;-)).
After dinner, every couple gets a torch and we walk across the skiing slope into the forest onto a platform. There we can take a look at the glittering town a couple of hundred meters below us and the sparkling stars just above us. It’s magnificent! With the torches all around us, the tiny lights above and below us, the image is breathtaking!
When we arrive back in the camp, the bonfire is already waiting for us and our frozen fingers and toes. But the fun ain’t over now … tobogganing is on the agenda now! We have an entire and freshly groomed skiing slope available for us! Far and wide, there is no other person around us. And we take our chances … with the little plastic sledges we walk up the mountain and race down the slope. Careful – it is really hard to stop!
Time to sleep – really?
People come together around the bonfire and dance to the music that’s played in the camp. Whether it is because of the quality of the music or because of the cold wind that forces us to move constantly, I won’t judge. But finally, it’s time to collect our sleeping bags, to change into our thick pyjamas, to warm up in the saune and to tip-toe back to our igloos. Barefoot? Yes, some of us barefoot, some of us not (NOT!). In the igloo, we rush to not let any warmth slip out of our clothes and the sleeping bag. We quickly get into our fleece sleeping bags and then slip into the big red sleeping bags for two. And we are almost glowing in the heat! The experts didn’t promise too much. The heat is kept inside, just our faces are sometimes kissed by the cold. We fall asleep quickly.
Good Morning! One of our guides wakes us at 8 am sharp. Our breath scribbles smoky traces into the air and our sleeping bag is completely wet on the outside. We can even see a bit of steam coming out of it. It really kept us warm and cosy. Clumsily, we climb out of our warm hideaway and out into the whiteness of the snow around us. Wow – what a white! And what a night … we slept in an igloo. Warm and cosy … we did it!