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Iglu-Dorf Zugspitze is managed by Sarah, Assistant to CEO.
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Iglu-Dorf Zugspitze
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Igloo entrance
— Sarah: “This ‘igloo feeling’ I call it, is so special that people all of a sudden start to feel like one group. It’s a little bit like, ‘We survived!’ It just feels good.”
Interview By: Welcome Beyond
— What was the inspiration to open Iglu-Dorf?
Sarah: “It all started with Adrian Günter, who was an extreme snowboarder. As you may know, the greatest thing for snowboarders is to take the first ride in the freshly-fallen powder snow. Unfortunately, everybody wants to go up to the mountain with the first gondola, so it’s hard to be the first one. He decided to stay overnight on top of the mountain, so he would definitely be the first.

As there’s no house to sleep in, he built his own igloo, stayed in the igloo, took the ride down in the morning and was the happiest person alive. Everybody asked, “Why do you look so happy?”, and he pointed up to the mountain and said, “You see that line over there? That was me.”

More and more people wanted to stay in his igloo, so that is how it all started. The next season, he made two igloos and then three. Then he had one destination with a couple of sleeping possibilities, then two. Now we have seven. It all started very little and grew year by year. And now we are already in the 12th year.”

— And the construction of the igloos changed quite a bit over time?
Sarah: “We started to build in the old traditional Inuit style, which means block on block. But the problem with that is, it takes too long to build.

To build it block on block, the biggest igloo we ever made was 8 metres wide and high. It took a team of 5 people 2 weeks to build just this one igloo. So we figured it had to be faster, otherwise we could start the season only at the end of January.

So what we do is, we blow up a big balloon, we throw the snow on top of the balloon and we wait a little till the snow gets hard. Then we let the air out of the balloon and what we have is the shape of the igloo.

Then the real work starts. We have different artists who come to build the lounges and make paintings out of snow into the walls — and we make the beds and everything else. So we just invented something new for the main shape, and the rest is done as always.”

— How long does it take to build the whole igloo village? And how much snow are you moving?
Sarah: “We’d love to have 4 weeks, but sometimes we have to build Iglu-Dorf in 2 weeks. Then we work 24 hours a day, in three shifts.

Regarding the amount of snow, if you can imagine a train that has a length of two kilometres and is full of snow, that’s approximately the amount we need to build one village. The biggest igloo we are building is 10 metres high and 10 metres wide. The little ones are 4 by 4 metres. It’s really a lot of snow. And all our igloo builders are losing between 4 to 8 kilos while they’re building the igloos, just because it’s such hard work.”

— There are standard igloos and romantic ones? Do you get more couples or groups?
Sarah: “We have both at Iglu-Dorf. We have the romantic igloos, some of which even have a private toilet and a private Jacuzzi. And we have the standard igloos which are for up to 6 people. But as we have a lot of company events, birthdays or celebrations, it’s basically half-half.

And if there’s an event, you always have the possibility to rent the entire village so that it’s all yours. And you can even have a program made for your group or company, so you're there alone on top of the mountain — it’s really impressive.”

— And you provide everything like sleeping bags for people to feel relatively comfortable during the night?
Sarah: “Exactly. We provide the sleeping bags, we provide the breakfast, we provide the dinner. People can do a snowshoe walk where we provide the sticks and the shoes. It’s all from us. You basically just need to bring yourself and some winter clothes, of course. The rest you get from us.”

— What would you describe to be the essence of the Iglu-Dorf?
Sarah: “Most people are always a little bit afraid of the snow and that it feels very cold. That’s not the case, as you are well equipped in your winter clothes keeping you nice and warm. And we give you a lovely cheese fondue, making you warm from inside too. Then we do the snowshoe walk, which warms you up as well, and in the end, you can jump into the hot whirlpool. The sleeping bags are made for -40˚C, and in the evening it’s only around zero, so that’s quite warm.

The other thing is, it’s really an amazing nature experience. You have to imagine yourself on top of the mountain. There’s hardly any light around and you are alone with the few people who are staying in the igloo. You can even hear the blood flow though your body because there’s no other noise. Snow swallows noise, so it’s really quiet. Maybe you’re lucky and it’s a very starry night, so you can see all the stars up in the sky. You just feel very little and you see how overwhelming nature can be, and that’s really impressive.”