Looking for a truly immersive accommodation experience in Switzerland? Pull on your winter warmers and stay closer to nature than ever before by building and sleeping in your very own igloo.
There are few places on earth that inspire the imagination like Switzerland. Towering mountains, expanses of pure white snow, sparkling icicles suspended from bare tree branches – it’s like something out of a fairytale.
Sadly, many tourists only get to appreciate this breath-taking scenery from a distance, while looking out their hotel window. However, for more adventurous travellers, there’s a new way to get the most out of this awe-inspiring environment. It’s the coolest new trend in accommodation: sleeping in an igloo you’ve built yourself.
Alain and Zoe Arnold, with their kids Lian and Anouk, signed up for the challenge. While the prospect was exciting, Zoe does confess to having temporary cold feet. “What do you need to spend a night in an igloo? How cold is it in a house made from snow? How do you keep warm? We were asking these questions for days,” she says.
But there was only one way to find out. Setting off from the village of Muotathal in the direction of the Pragel Pass, the family hiked through a forest and along a small stream before winding up at an immaculate stretch of land edged with imposing cliff faces. This is where they‘d be staying the night.
It may seem like a huge task to construct your own lodgings, but help is at hand to get things started. Instructors Dieter and Paul have already levelled out space for the igloo, and offer expert advice as the Arnolds begin their build.
While professional assistance is recommended the first time, to make the process faster and safer, constructing an igloo is far easier than you may think. The first step is to test the snow for consistency where you plan to harvest the blocks, as the snow needs to be in a firm layer at least 50cm deep to be usable. Then you must prepare the site for your igloo, stamping down the snow to make a firm foundation and drawing a circle as a guide for your build. To do this, it is as simple as inserting a ski pole into the snow where you want the centre to be, then using another ski pole and some string to measure a radius between 1.25m and 1.7m.
Once that’s finished, you’re ready to harvest the snow blocks. Shovel away the soft top snow and measure out your blocks, then use a saw to cut them before breaking them free. “We followed Dieter’s instructions and sawed one block of snow after the next. We’d never thought it could be so easy. Only a few blocks fell apart,” says Zoe.
When your blocks are ready to go, it’s time to start the build. Lay down the first row, ensuring the blocks are angled slightly inwards – better too tilted than too straight. Cut a ramp over the last four or five blocks, and then start adding more rows in a spiral until there’s just a hole left at the top. Use one block to fill this, adjusting from the inside until it fits, then fill the joints on the outside with snow and pat down.
The final touch is digging an entrance tunnel under the igloo wall, which the children love: “Just like a slide!” Lian and Anouk shout. They’ve had a blast the whole time, enthusiastically supporting the adults as they secure the blocks in place. Perhaps surprisingly, this experience really has been fun for the whole family.
The strong Föhn wind rolls down from the mountains and starts stirring the snow just as the Arnolds finish their build, and the temperature begins to drop. It’s time to retire to a nearby Alpine hut for dinner, where Romy – a member of the igloo-building team – has made cider fondue, a local speciality.
It’s the perfect warming meal after the day’s hard work, and just what’s needed before the family heads out for their night in the igloo. Grabbing the last few essentials – reindeer skins, insulated camping mats and sleeping bags – they’re ready to nestle down in comfort and drift off to sleep with a real sense of achievement. “All of our worries were for nothing. It’s cosy in our sleeping bag with the hot water bottle,” Zoe says. “Only the tops of our noses tingle in the cold air.”
While temperatures in the igloo are near to zero degrees, it’s a good opportunity to get closer to your loved ones – cuddling up together will keep you warm and toasty. It’s a unique and magical adventure for families and groups of friends, and the Arnolds are sure to walk away with memories to last a lifetime.
For more information on this exciting family adventure, click here.
Top spots in Switzerland for igloo fans
Gstaad, Bernese Oberland
Learn the right way to build your own igloo in the Alpinzentrum Gstaad, and be rewarded for your hard work with a delicious fondue afterwards.
Easily reached from Lucerne, Zurich, Basel or Bern, this igloo village is the biggest in Switzerland. Each igloo can accommodate up to six people and there is also a special ‘romantic igloo’ for couples.
Schwarzsee, Fribourg Region
Stroll around and climb illuminated ice creations by artist Karl Neuhaus. From castles and caves to grottos and igloos, these constructions are up to 15m high.
Atzmännig, Zurich Region
A comfortable alternative to camping, the two- to six-bedded PODhouses are like wooden igloos, and offer plenty of space for families. They are well-insulated and have electrical heating and light, so you stay cosy even – in the middle of nature.
An entire village of igloos decorated with snow and ice art on the Parsenn ski resort provides an unforgettable stay. Guests even have their own sauna and whirlpool to enjoy.