Tour: The SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland

June 06, 2013

Late this past winter, or friend Helen Soteriou headed from her homebase in London to Kemi, Finland to see one of the more awesome, bizarre, and crazy sculptures being made in the world, the SnowCastle. Maybe you need some background: Born in 1996, SnowCastle was a project by UNICEF and the city of Kemi, and has now earned its place in the Guinness Book of Records with its 1 100 meter long walls, and an astonishing number of 273 000 people visited the fascinating world within these world-renowned walls!

Some facts from the good people of SnowCastle:

Snow and How We Make It

-          Natural snow is too soft, and for that reason we make the snow for building the Castle out of Sea water.

-          The temperature should be at least -7 degrees Celsius for making the snow; the colder the weather, the better the snow will be. During the last few years we have been able to begin the making of the snow, at its best, the 8th of December the earliest or, at its worst, the 31st of December. The Opening Night is always the last week-end of January.

-          The idea of the snow pipe: water is led through the pipes with high-pressure; when coming out, it turns to snow.

About Building the SnowCastle

-          Two kinds of moulds are used in the constructions: the arch and the excess pressure moulds. There are no support structures in the SnowCastle.

-          Grecians, already in the time of Antique knew how to use the arch-technique.

-          In optimum circumstances the snow hardens in only couple of hours, after which the mould will then be removed.

-          Building-time we have had at its best six weeks, but we have also built the SnowCastle in only three and a half weeks!

About Ice Used for the Castle

-          Ice used for the Castle is lifted up from the Baltic Sea next to the SnowCastle.

-          Ice has a quality of adapting slowly to the surrounding air temperature.

-          The foot of an ice-table leads cold from the floor to the table; coldness expands further and this way the table will last through the season.

-          Different shapes made from ice (sharp or thin balls, f. ex.) demand a certain technique and a definite temperature.

-          There are no definite temperatures or any other specific examined material about ice-sculpting. All information is based on the experience of professional ice-sculptors.

The Electricity

-          Still just a few years back the electricity was drawn into the walls of the SnowCastle once the Castle was built: the electricians used a chain-saw to make tracks into the snowy walls where they then installed the electricity-wires and covered them with snow-slush; this process was extremely slow. 

-          In these days the electricity-wires run on the snowy-roofs from where they are then dropped into desired areas.

The SnowCastle Area

-          It takes about 21 000 m3 (app. 2 100 lorry-truck loads) of snow to build the SnowCastle.

-          Ice used to build the ice-tables and ice-sculptures amounts to almost 200 m3

-          SnowCastle area is appr. 4 900  m2

-          Rooms covered with snow consists of appr. 1 000 m2

-          Gross floor area 2 000 m2 = including the thicknesses of the walls and the roof

-          The temperature within the SnowCastle’s inner areas is always about -5 degrees Celsius regardless of the temperature outside. During the time of the building-process the inside temperature may be colder due to the fact that doors are still open and the air from outside circulates through the structures.

-          A few years back a simple air-conditioning was taken into practice at the SnowCastle: the pipes installed on the snow-roofs suck the air from inside helping to keep the snow-covered areas like the Restaurant cool until the end of the season. Earlier the problem was that the temperature inside the snow-covered areas rose so high that the door-ways started to drip water.

The SnowWalls and the Towers

-          Walls around the SnowCastle are about 4 metres high and 1, 5 metres thick.

-          The total length of the walls around the castle is almost half a kilometre.

The SnowHotel

-          18 double rooms, two group rooms each for five persons, and a suite

-          48 beds for sleeping

-          The room floor-area 9 m2 , height 3 metres

-          Height of the hallway in the Hotel 5 metres, the total length 60 metres and width 5 metres

-          The thickness of walls between rooms 60 cm, the thickness from a room to the hallway 1,5 - 2 meters

The SnowRestaurant

-          The Restaurant seats 150 persons in three different Cabinets

-          Tables are made of ice lifted from the Gulf of Bothnia right in front of the SnowCastle

-          Seats and benches are made of wood and each seat is covered with a reindeer or sheep skin

-          The Restaurant is open according to the general opening hours of the SnowCastle, evenings are available upon request and special reservation