The banks of the Novosibirsk Reservoir are a hive of activity.
Teams are busy constructing igloos amid the wintry landscape.
More than 100 snow domes are being built on the reservoir, informally known as Ob Sea, competing for who can make the best one.
Competition organiser Dmitry Patsay explains that these structures can be very useful in real life situations.
“In case of unexpectedly requiring an overnight stay at a pass, where there is tight snow but no wood, and no possibility of digging out a cave, then a wall or an igloo is built so that it’s possible to sleep over in such a complicated moment,” he says.
Teams are given 2.5 hours to build their igloo.
Blocks are cut from the dense snow with saws.
And not just any snow will do the job.
“Suitable snow means it is pressed by wind, the so-called firn wind, when the wind is blowing for a long time and the grains of snow are rolled off, pressed, and a thick crust is formed which we can cut and build snow blocks,” says Vyacheslav Goryunov, another organiser.
The Ob Sea is the ideal space for that snow to form – a large, flat expanse of reservoir.
The igloo festival is in its tenth year. When it began, around 50 people built igloos. Now that number has swollen to 550.
And for some teams, dividing up responsibilities is their secret to success.
“We have a specialist who knows how to build igloos, we have technical staff like myself, who learned how to build blocks,” explains Elena Larina who is taking part for the first time.
“Thanks to the judges we found out that we need to make the igloo rounded, so instead of building a tower we are trying to make a roof.”
Building the right shape is one of the most difficult things for competitors.
Another challenge is to make the blocks snugly fit each other so that there are no gaps.
It might seem like a complex process, but organisers say the basic principles are simple.
“The technology is simple, it means building a spiral, where each block is based on the previous one, so we can install a block and it stands because it is based on something. We end up with a top that acts as a spacer for the structure,” says Goryunov.
For those who aren’t confident in their igloo-building abilities, the event runs master classes ahead of the competition.
And if they are built well, organisers say an igloo can withstand the weight of a polar bear.
But today is not a matter of survival, it’s a matter of competition.
Judges assess the igloos on size, height, and presence of gaps between the snow blocks.
They also take into account the size and gender balance in teams.
Among the prizes is the Audience Choice Award.
Tatyana Goretskaya is part of the winning team for the second year running – but she wasn’t a prize winner on her first attempt.
“It is quite difficult. You need to know the technology of construction,” she says.
“During the first year we had small flaws, but for the second and third year, it all goes fine, without flaws, without a single crack.”
This year prizes are given in fourteen categories including the most beautiful, the biggest and the most correctly built igloo.
Depending on the quality of the constructed igloo, the temperature inside varies from –5 to +5 degrees Celsius.
Apart from building igloos festival guests are able to enjoy the company of husky dogs and reindeers as well stay and test their igloos by sleeping in them overnight.