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Fargo man fights off winter chill by building igloos

Dave Vacha has carried his childhood hobby of building snow and ice structures into adulthood.

Fargo man stands in front of two igloos he built
Dave Vacha used more than 550 ice blocks to build two igloos in front of his Fargo home.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — When Dave Vacha’s neighbors first saw him hard at work outside his Osgood area townhouse this winter, they wanted to know what he was building.

As the structures have taken shape, they’re now asking, “Why?”

Vacha, 38, built two sizable igloos in his front yard at 4330 47th St. S.

He braved many hours of cold and wind to fill plastic bins with water, yielding hundreds of 12-pound ice blocks or “bricks” used for the construction.

As for why he does it, Vacha said it’s a childhood hobby that followed him into adulthood.

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“I was just fascinated by making structures out of snow and ice,” he said.
When he’s not working as marketing manager at Blarney Stone Pub in West Fargo, he’s usually perfecting his ice creations.

The first igloo Vacha built this winter, begun before Thanksgiving, melted. The second one suffered the same fate, so he waited until the weather was more consistently cold before embarking on the ones that now stand in the front yard.

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Dave Vacha sits comfortably inside an igloo located outside of his home in south Fargo. Vacha uses a sled to slide into the narrow opening of the igloo.
David Samson/The Forum

“It’s a mix of a hobby and exercise … almost like meditation in a way,” he said.

His wife, Heather Vacha, 28, said this is one hobby of Dave’s that she does not join in on.

“If by helping you mean watching through the window, that’s about the only help I gave. It was all his thing,” she said.

Dave Vacha starts with six-quart plastic containers that he fills with water.

He puts them up on shelves outside, where they freeze more quickly than they would on the ground.

Once the bricks are frozen and removed from the bins, Dave Vacha said the process is much like bricklaying, with snow and water used to hold them together.

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Dave Vacha shows the temperature inside of one of the igloos he built at his south Fargo home.
David Samson/The Forum

“You put a row down, make sure it's level and then put some mortar down. Then repeat and just keep on going up,” he said.

The only tools he uses are a small ice chisel and a three-pound sledgehammer for adjustments.

The first igloo, cylindrical with a flat roof of wooden planks and snow, is composed of 374 ice blocks weighing almost 4,500 pounds.

For the second, adjoining structure, Vacha used 180 ice blocks weighing 2,160 pounds.

He pours about five gallons of water on both every other night to keep the ice structures solidly frozen and strong.

To get in through the small entrance, he lies back on a plastic sled and uses his legs and feet to push himself through, which he demonstrates in a tutorial video on YouTube.

The video shot with a GoPro camera will make anyone who’s even slightly claustrophobic uncomfortable for a few seconds.

Inside, Vacha has a couple chairs set up underneath festive green LED lights strung through the slats of the roof where he can sit and visit with anyone who stops by.

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Before the winter is over, he hopes to spend a night sleeping in the larger igloo, where the temperature is typically 15 degrees warmer than the outside air.

He’s trying to get wife to join him in that endeavor, but it’s not looking promising, for now.

“I don't think he'll get me out there. It's a little too chilly for my liking,” she said.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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