Building below zero

On the job 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle.


Rami & Tomi Kurtakko

It’s the second week of December in Finnish Lapland. The midday temperature hovers at -23° Celsius, the sun never ventures above the horizon, and the dim, blue light illuminating the sky shines for less than two hours a day. And it’s still two weeks away from the shortest day of the year.

If that doesn’t sound cold, imagine spending your days not only working in snow and ice, but working with snow and ice. That’s what it’s like building and constructing the Lapland Hotels SnowVillage.

Vintage ice

SnowVillage founders Rami and Tomi Kurtakko have been building the combination hotel, restaurant, and sculpture exhibition out of snow and ice every year, for the past twenty years. At this point in time, they’re more or less recognised experts in the field, developing new building techniques and even designing construction machinery specifically built for the job. But no matter if you call them founders, builders, engineers, or entrepreneurs, they’re both wholeheartedly Laplanders.

They love the pristine nature of northern Finland and everything it offers in the way of both professional and recreational experiences. Once the temperature drops below zero, they put in long and hard hours getting the season’s new snow structures into place, using 20 million kilos of both man-made and natural snow, and an enormous 350 000 kilos of ice. For the artistic ice sculpting, they use older ice, saved from previous winters, as it gets better with age, developing a deeper and clearer blue colour for every season that passes.

Consistently cold

SnowVillage’s basic building block is man-made snow, as it offers a denser, more compact building material. It’s this density that allows such large structures, even archways, to be built completely out of snow. It also provides a steady interior temperatures of about -5° C, no matter how cold it is outside.

For the international building crew of about 35 craftsman and craftswomen, it’s this distinct temperature difference that poses one of the biggest difficulties of the job. No matter if you’re harvesting blocks of ice on the nearby, windswept river, or sculpting intricate designs in vintage ice inside a giant igloo, you’re working in more or less consistent temperature zones that you can dress for.

Layers work together

But as soon as you begin moving in and out of the snow structures, working inside and outside, you need to compensate for the temperature differences with your clothing. That’s where Snickers Workwear’s system of three layers really makes a difference. You may think a puffy snowboarding parka keeps you warm on the slopes, but working in one is something completely different. Layering isn’t just more comfortable, it’s also much more practical as you can put on or remove outer layers to maintain a steady body temperature.

Rami and Tomi have been working together with Snickers Workwear for about three seasons now. Having previously tried a wide range of other cold weather gear, they are extremely pleased with our garments. Their own experience, as well as the feedback they’ve gotten from their team, all say that durability and comfort are extremely important. But what really matters when you’re working in the extreme cold is body-heat regulation through sufficient ventilation. And that’s exactly what our cold-weather workwear does.

Rami & Tomi Kurtakko

PLACE: Lapland, Finland

JOB: SnowVillage Founders

TEAM: 35 builders and artists

SOCIAL: @laplandhotelssnowvillage