A new installment has appeared on campus to add to Macalester’s scenic yet brisk winter wonderland. In the past three weeks, an igloo has become a fixture on Kagin lawn. Rumors have been circulating as to how this mysterious snow cave appeared.
Was it a pack of January term swimmers looking to do something crafty? Or a group of students spontaneously inspired on an acid trip?
“I think everyone is really excited about having the igloo on campus, and it’s mysterious because no one really knows who built it,” said Juliette Myers ’17.
In truth, the structure is not an igloo at all but a quinzee; a snow cave originally used by the Athabaskan people in the Alaskan interior and Northwestern Canada for temporary shelter from the unforgiving elements.
And it was built by one man, Jeffrey Lyman ’16.
“I mostly just wanted something to do over J-term because it gets really boring,” he said. Lyman grew up building quinzees with his boy scout troop in the negative temperatures of northern Minnesota. While working at Macalester as a building manager over J-term, he decided to start a new tradition. While his friends were either at home or taking an EMT course, Lyman set out solo to build the structure used by many to survive winter conditions of -50. He took a shovel he found in his dorm’s trash closet and headed out to build the quinzee. The construction took about five, hour-long sessions in total.
Rather than piling blocks of snow on top of one another, like an igloo, quinzees are built by hollowing out a big pile of snow. “Once the pile is about four feet tall you can start hollowing it out,” said Lyman. He explained that the trick is to build it when it’s just about freezing. If it’s too cold outside the snow gets powdery and is hard to work with.
With the start of the new semester, the quinzee immediately became a popular for hotboxing. “I mean, I knew it was going to happen. It’s Macalester,” said Lyman, although he says it was not intentionally built for that purpose.
“It’s a wonderful outlet for recreational activity,” said Colin Casey ’17, although he says he has never spent time in the snow cave. “It’s a fun seasonal thing.”
Lyman and his boy scouts spent cold winter nights sleeping in their self-made quinzees, but he hasn’t attempted a night in this one because it would require a zero degree sleeping bag. However, he plans to continue construction. His goal is to make the cave six feet inside so that he can stand up. It is currently at about 3.5 feet.
Other students have plans for the quinzee, too. “I’d like it to be multi-leveled with a chimney,” said Filip Kostanecki ’17. “A mailbox would be great too.”
Lyman also hopes that quinzee building will become a Macalester tradition. “Even if I’m not here, I hope someone else does it.”