Obergurgl’s ice, ice baby

8th February 2011, by Chris Gill

Obergurgl's new ice bar  [(c) Betonbau.tuwien.ac.at]

Obergurgl's new ice bar [(c) Betonbau.tuwien.ac.at]

Ever wondered how resorts build their ice bars? Well, in Obergurgl Austria they have a new bar this winter, assembled using an intricate method and design that they claim has not been attempted before.

Obergurgl’s new ice dome sits in front of the Hotel Alpina, and looks very much like the top part of an umbrella – but made of snow and ice panels.

A team of civil engineers from the Vienna University of Technology first created a circular base for the bar by spraying water onto it to level it out. They then set to work measuring and cutting out sections of ice that would form the outside walls. These were arranged on the ground like a fan or wheel spokes.

But they couldn’t just haul them up into place; the ice needed to be curved to fit. In order to achieve that result, the engineers first built a wooden ‘tower’ at the centre of the base plate and used stacks of wood under each ice segment. This encouraged the ice sections to curve downwards as they were moulded over the wood.

Shaping the ice

The engineers attached steel tension cables to maintain the shape and to help raise the panels into place around the central tower. Once all the ice panels fitted together in their new dome shape, so the wood and cable shells could be removed.

It’s an amazing piece of ice sculpturing that took a lot of thought and precision to achieve. And it has become a lively social scene for après-ski drinks in Obergurgl. The finished ice dome is about 3.5m high, with a 10m diameter.

Last orders at the bar, please.

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