During winter break, 5-year-old Miles Southworth began contemplating journalism. Specifically, he wondered “How big does a snow fort need to be to make it into the newspaper?”
Coincidentally, Miles’ father, Wyatt Southworth, is a former Outward Bound instructor and teaches the Construction/Design and Outdoor Recreation classes at Liberty Bell High School, so he was well-suited not only to answer Miles’ question (“really big”) but also to help Miles achieve his goal from a practical standpoint.
Wyatt says that he and his wife, Cara, have been considering adding an extra bedroom onto their home, now that their two young boys are starting to grow. “We wanted to use environmentally friendly products, such as straw-bale but we decided on snow, because, frankly, it comes from the sky,” Wyatt said.
In some places, like big ski areas, it also comes from snow cannons, which blow water into pressurized air creating little ice pellets, which the ski areas refer to as “manmade snow,” a substance that is suitable for skiing but not for fort construction.
Although supply chain issues have plagued the building industry in the past few years, Wyatt and Cara have experienced no shortage of their chosen material. And the supply windfall of 2022 seems poised to continue strong in early 2023.
Wyatt thinks snow is an ideal building material due to its “non-existent carbon footprint, the easy handling, and its renewability.” Not only is snow renewable annually, but if Wyatt and Miles run out of snow in this year’s building season, it’s quite likely than any number of friends and neighbors would be happy to donate some from their own reserves.
Wyatt didn’t mention the ease of building those appealing curves and domes, but that is another benefit of building with snow. You can also change your mind, completely destroy one room, and use the same material to create a new one more to your liking.
Wyatt raises the sobering topic of climate change and what it might do to the future of the snow building trade but feels confident that “the next generation of chat bots will solve that problem for us” — a solution that demonstrates why people like Wyatt and me teach (taught) Construction/Design and English instead of Computer Science.
Although the design and construction of Miles’ snow fort are impressive, Wyatt’s favorite part is the color: “The architect did an amazing job blending our addition into the surrounding environment! Maybe we can get it featured in an architecture magazine?”
Sorry, no. But here you go, Miles — your snow fort made it into the newspaper.