Ryan and Matt Rice have a thing for igloos. A major thing.
The brothers, ages 24 and 21, are part-time college students living at home with their parents on Running Creek Court in Springfield. Every winter, if conditions are right, they build an igloo.
So when the snow started flying last weekend, they grabbed their shovels and started piling it up in the front yard of their brick colonial. They took snow from their driveway, from neighbors' driveways, from front yards and sidewalks.
They piled it, stomped it and piled it some more -- until the mound was a good 15 feet high and 30 feet around. It got so high, their mother, Shannon, implored them to quit before they got hurt.
Ryan lovingly yelled back: "Mom, go back inside. We're two grown men building an igloo."
The pair have been building igloos since Ryan was in third grade or thereabouts. Most of their ice houses have been puny mounds of snow with a carved-out crawl space.
This one, though, is a whopper.
Head clearance is well over six feet. They had an igloo party Tuesday night when they finished the thing, hauled in six or eight lawn chairs and some beer and lit a few candles. Igloo heaven.
"We do it every year," said Ryan, "but usually it is so small that you have to crawl in the opening. . . . We've never had one before where you can wear regular clothes and not get wet."
They shoveled for 10 hours Sunday before they figured the mound was big enough and packed down sufficiently to start hollowing out. Monday, they cut an opening and used a sled to get inside. They hauled the snow out in a plastic recycling bin, packing it in the tub and using it as a mold to make snow blocks. They kept track of wall and ceiling thickness with a yardstick.
They spent another 10 hours Tuesday making the inside larger.
"At one point, we realized it was big enough that we could make the entrance bigger so we wouldn't have to crawl in," Matt said. They placed a yellow sign at the entrance: "Caution Wet Floor."
Neighborhood children flocked to their yard, helping out. Friends came over, too.
Matt figures they used about 2,000 shovels full of snow, each weighing at least a pound.
When did they know they were finished? "When our backs hurt so much we couldn't shovel anymore," Ryan said.
They joke about still living at home with the folks. Both brothers work and go to Northern Virginia Community College part time. Matt is a parks and recreation major; Ryan is studying business and marketing. When their labor of love was done, their mother saw the experience as a chance for them to make a change in their lives.
"She said it was our new house," Matt said, laughing.