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Springville siblings make building igloos a tradition

Boredom comes easily to teenagers, especially during Christmas break when there is snow on the ground and it’s cold outside. Who wants to leave the comforts of a warm house to enter the world of ice, snow and cold?

Enter the Galbraith family from Springville, Utah, particularly Tyson, 18; Austin, 16; Brooke, 14; Nathan, 12; and Ryan, 7.

Three years ago, Trevon (now serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala), Tyson, Austin, Nathan and Brooke decided to create something out of snow to kill time. So they began stacking snow, and soon it began to resemble an igloo.

They didn’t plan to build a full igloo the first time. But as they continued with the project, they decided if they turned it into an igloo, they could sleep in it. Thus, the igloo concept was born at the Galbraith house. Besides, an igloo sounded totally different than just building the common snow fort.

Trevon and his siblings’ original design used snow packed in five-gallon buckets, which they turned upside down and stacked into an igloo. This process to build the first igloo was extremely tedious yet effective, and the igloo took many, many hours to construct. But once the siblings started on the igloo, they decided to build it so they could sleep in it overnight on Christmas.

For the next two years, they followed the same process and built an igloo during Christmas break and slept in it on Christmas. But this year, with Trevon serving his mission in sunny and definitely warmer Guatemala, Tyson, now 18, took the reins from his older brother and decided an easier process had to be found.

He decided on a more efficient way. Thankfully, Springville was blessed with several inches of snow during the Christmas break. With the help of his brothers and sister, Tyson began the new process of shoveling snow off their front lawn and pushing it into long rows. Unfortunately, the snow didn’t have enough moisture, so they used a bit of water to create the type of snow they needed.

Once the right texture and consistency were reached, they stomped on the long rows until the snow had compacted, and then left it overnight to freeze. The process completed, they borrowed a 2-foot handsaw from their father's arsenal of tools and sawed the snow into blocks they could cart to the igloo construction site.

According to Tyson, “This process definitely sped up the work. We could use a saw to cut up the rectangular blocks. Then, one by one, we stacked them into an igloo.”

With this method, everyone could participate. “While some were shoveling snow into the long pack line, another one was cutting the blocks, and others packing the blocks and stacking them,” Tyson said. “Then the little kids took loose snow and packed it around the blocks to lock them into place.”

What made Christmas 2014 different was the fact they wanted to be able to stand up in the igloo. When asked what the most difficult part was, Austin said, “The top part. We had to use a ladder this year to place the blocks on the top.” They leaned the ladder against the bottom part of the igloo, climbed the ladder with a large block of snow, and then carefully placed the block.

Since a measurable amount of snow didn’t arrive until Christmas Day, the Galbraith family got a late start building the igloo. They spent much of Christmas Day building the igloo and were able to spend the night even though the night they chose was quite cold: a whopping 7 degrees. The next morning when their father asked how it was, Tyson, Austin, Nathan and Ryan were unanimous in their response: “It was warm.”

Even when the Galbraiths are out of school, they are consistently learning something. According to Quinn, their father, “The kids have been pleased with their knowledge of being able to build a snow fort that could help them if they were stranded in the mountains. They were amazed how much warmer it was in the igloo on a cold night compared to the outside temperature, and they were impressed with how strong the igloo was, especially on the top. They could put all of their weight on the top because of the dome-shaped structure.”

According to their parents, the Galbraith children simultaneously built an almost perfectly shaped igloo, strengthened their relationship with their family and had an incredible time doing it.

“As parents,” Quinn Galbraith said, “it is fun to see older and younger siblings working hard to build something together.”

Heidi Galbraith, their mother, said, “What was most impressive was everyone was working hard and appreciating each other’s volunteer service,” something that is important in the Galbraith family.

An Idahoan, Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things and seeing things the way they could be. You can read more of his musings at He and his wife served an LDS Church mission in the Caribbean Area Welfare Office.