The person gathering the snow should place the snow on the ledge just outside of the form. It is best that just enough snow be gathered for each block. Any extra snow should be moved along the wall to the next block position or the snow will be sintered and hard when you get back to the snow pile to use it.Snow gathering techniques vary greatly with different snow conditions making it quite an art in conserving energy. Gathering the snow is the mostly physically demanding job of building an igloo and the amount of energy required can easily triple if done wrong.
The most common method of gathering and moving the snow is to hold the shovel like a broom and effectively sweep the snow to a pile that will either be moved further or swept up onto the ledge for use.
Gathering the snow by sweeping works well in soft snow and even works in some of the harder or consolidated snows if the snow is still soft enough that it can be swept off easily.
Sweeping the snow results in a smooth area that is easy to gather more snow from or to move snow across from further away.
Gathering snow with this sweeping action also helps to create denser snow and will help it to sinter quicker. In extreme cold conditions you may need to actually walk on the pile of snow before putting it into the form to make it sinter better.
We have found that it is best if the snow is placed in the form quickly after gathering and working the snow.
When the snow is a bit harder, it works well to scrape the snow by using the shovel like a rake to bring the snow to the shoveler's feet.
If the snow is too hard to scrape it off, with the raking technique, it is best to quarry out chunks and make a pile of chunks just outside the ledge. Working the quarry methodically saves energy and is faster than haphazardly chopping out chunks at random.
To break up the chunks of snow into loose snow, it is nice to slide one foot into the pile and stand on this foot while using the shovel for balance. Standing on one foot enables a person to use the other foot to stomp across the pile of chunks in an arc around the planted foot. Stepping ahead into the pile after you can't reach the unbroken chunks anymore, enables you to stomp on all the chunks.
It is best if enough chunks are gathered to create enough loose snow for one block. If there is not enough snow to complete the block, more chunks will need to be added to the pile and the stomping technique used again. This is a fair amount of extra work using up both time and energy.
Another technique, for breaking up the hard snow, works as well or better in some conditions. The technique is much like the stomp on a pile of chunks technique except you stomp on a quarry wall. The trick is to stomp just enough to shave a half boot width off the quarry wall. Shaving a full boot width off results in small chunks that will not work for the packer or will slow him down a lot.
Usually the limiting factor, in using the shaving if off the quarry wall technique, is that you can't bring your knee up to you chest and get a good stomp in when the quarry wall is to tall. It also doesn't work very good when the snow is very hard where your foot glances off the quarry wall instead of shaving snow off.
If you encounter a layer of ice, sweep or quarry the snow off a large area of the ice using these techniques and then swat the ice with the shovel to break it up into small chunks of ice.
The ice chunks that are created like this can be gathered along with some of the snow layer below and the packer will be able to use the snow containing the ice chunks. This will however slow down the packer but sometimes you have no choice.
Some spring slush packs so easily that any handling of the snow will turn it into a chunk that will need to be broken up by the packer. This slows the packer way down, so it is better to dig the snow and carry it shovel by shovel full to the form and put it directly into the form.
When there are a couple feet or more of snow, you will only need to go a short distance from the ledge of the platform to gather the snow. It works well to just sweep up a pile of snow and use it, but when the snow is shallow or the underlying layer of snow is too hard to use, it is better to go further and bring the snow to the igloo.
Sweeping works best and is done by sweeping a fan shaped area into a pile and then sweeping the pile over to the platform ledge. Sometimes a person can sweep hard enough to throw the snow over to the igloo.
If a person needs to go further than this, sweep a fan shaped area as far as possible while creating a pile, then sweep that pile further and hopefully to the igloo. Do this sweeping in such a way that you are moving the piles over the same snow each time. This will create a bit of a path and it is easier to move the snow down a hard path of snow.
Gathering the snow haphazardly sometimes results in deep footprints in the snow and when one sweeps the snow across them, the snow falls in the holes until they are full of snow. This results in a tremendous waste of energy.
Sweeping the snow up on the ledge takes the least amount of energy if one stands with his back to the igloo and pulls the snow up on the ledge in an action much like paddling a canoe. Another technique is to stand facing the igloo and push or scrape the snow, away from the shoveler gathering the snow and up on the ledge.
Paddling the snow up works well for getting the initial pile of snow up on the ledge and pushing the snow up works well for the second half of the block as one can see and maintain a nice pile for the shoveler to pick up from when putting the snow into the form.
A tidy pile helps the shoveler get a fuller shovel of snow and also helps show where the ledge is at so the shoveler doesn't shave off any of the ledge.
After the block is complete, the shoveler standing on the ledge rakes any extra snow along the ledge to the next block position.
He first rakes as much as he can being careful not to let his shovel dig into the wall of the igloo. After he has raked most of the snow ahead, the shoveler gathering the snow scrapes any snow that is stuck to the wall off of the iglool so it lands on the ledge. He also pushes any left over snow below the ledge up onto the ledge. The shoveler on the ledge then rakes the second bunch of snow ahead to the next block position. This results in working on the ledge surface enough that it will eventually become rock hard for standing on.
Moving this snow along the wall to the next position is a lot of work and that is why it is best to gather just a little bit extra snow for each block.
On the highest layers the next block position can sometimes be 1/4 the way around the igloo and at some point it is to much energy to move the left over snow making it easier to gather some fresh snow.
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