Structured activity: Igloo returns for a 6th — and final — year at Hanover home

  • Kenny Rudd, 52, left, relaxes on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, with brothers Sam Gusitsch, 3, middle, and Jacob Gusitsch, 14, of Hanover, right, inside the snow cave he has built for the last six years for his family and other neighborhood children on his Hanover, N.H., lawn. Rudd uses a snowblower to create the large pile on top of a small wooden structure to create a cavity that he can then enlarge. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News - James M. Patterson

  • Pauline Rudd, 13, dodges snowballs thrown by, from top left, Eli Gusitsch, 13, Caleb Gusitsch, 8, and Corban Shaw, 11, as Noelle Gusitsch, 9, crawls into the snow cave at the Rudd family home in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. As his six children have grown into their teens, Kenny Rudd, Paunline's dad, said this is likely the last year they will build the snow cave. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Madeline Shaw, 8, left, and Noelle Gusitsch, 9, lay in the shelter of the Rudd family snow cave’s entrance tunnel talking in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Madeline Shaw, 8, center, and Sam Gusitsch, 3, right, play on a tire swing as their siblings play on top of the snow cave built by Kenny Rudd, 52, second from right, on his Hanover, N.H., lawn on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The Rudd family started the annual snow cave tradition after playing king of the mountain on plow banks, then building their own mountain of snow and hollowing it out. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/3/2023 4:08:14 PM
Modified: 2/3/2023 11:48:46 PM

HANOVER — Snowballs flew through the air, up and over a giant igloo that served as the centerpiece of the frivolity.

At the center of the scene was Kenny Rudd, who stood on top of the roughly 16-foot-high mound of snow with a smile on his face while a half-dozen children scampered about. Snow hardened into ice crunched underfoot as kids scaled the massive white mound and ran around its base. Eventually, some of the snowball combatants eased their way through the tunnel at the igloo’s base to take a break from the action.

“This is fun, yeah?” Rudd said as he took in the scene after climbing down from his perch Wednesday afternoon.

It is the sixth — and final — winter that Rudd, 52, has built the igloo at the Meadow Lane home where the family has lived at for 12 years. But that yearly tradition, the type of pure New England winter fun that sometimes seems to exist only in memories, started as a way to give his six children something to do in the cold weather.

“When they were little, you do all you can to get energy out,” Rudd said.

That included endless games of kick the can and king of the mountain, where the kids would be tasked with pushing adults off the top of the igloo.

But now the kids — ages 13 to 19 — are older, and at a family meeting last fall, they decided this year would be the project’s last. Rudd is making the most of it.

“This looks like this has some ER potential here,” he said with a laugh as his youngest daughter, Pauline, dragged a snow tube to the top before sledding down the side. Rudd would know: He works nights as an emergency room doctor at the White River Junction VA Medical Center.

He takes care to make sure the igloo is structurally sound and safe before allowing any children to play on it. While the kids may see the occasional bruise or bump, Rudd said no major injuries have occurred from igloo-related activities — despite some pretty raucous games of king of the mountain. There’s only one rule: no hitting.

“You get good at laying down big or trying to get a good foothold,” Rudd said of igloo traversal.

And when skill fails, the snow cushions the inevitable falls, as his kids will testify.

“When it’s soft, it doesn’t hurt when you get pushed off,” said Pauline, 13. “It’s really fun.”

Rudd starts building the igloo after the first couple of good snowfalls. He initially puts up a plywood frame and then pushes snow piles created with plows toward the center of the front yard. After the frame is sufficiently covered, he removes it through the tunnel piece by piece. This year, Rudd used a snowblower to move construction along.

“It’s definitely evolved over the years,” he said. The walls of this year’s igloo are 3 to 4 feet thick, and the inside ceiling is just under 5 feet tall.

The igloo has become a bit of a gathering spot for children in the neighborhood and Rudd welcomes people to stop by to explore it.

“It’s definitely a great experience that you really can’t find other places,” Bethann Gusitsch said in a phone interview Thursday.

Her five children, ages 1 to 14, were part of the crowd at the Rudds’ house Friday afternoon. The family has visited the igloo ever since they moved to Hanover’s Rip Road from Florida nearly five years ago. Gusitsch’s husband, Doug, and their two oldest children, Jacob and Eli, have spent the night in the igloo.

“Sleeping in it was a big highlight,” Gusitsch said.

She is also comforted by Rudd’s medical training and the fact that he’s nearby when her kids visit his house.

“They’re in good hands,” she said.

One year, one of Rudd’s sons took photos of the igloo and listed the edifice on Airbnb. The listing lasted a few days until neighbors complained to the town. That necessitated a visit from then-Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley, who explained that it couldn’t be rented out because it didn’t have smoke detectors.

Once a year, members of the family sleep outside in it. They cover the ground in a layer of soft snow and put down a tarp before dragging out air mattresses and sleeping bags, Pauline explained while giving a tour of the inside. There’s a ventilation hole so that more air can circulate.

“It’s pretty cool,” Pauline said.

For Rudd’s 50th birthday, the family used an extension cord to set up a projector so they could watch classic Bugs Bunny cartoons while sipping hot chocolate.

“I loved that,” Rudd said.

As his kids have gotten older, their extracurricular activities increased. Sometimes they help with the igloo, but it’s mostly Rudd’s enthusiasm that’s kept it going.

“They definitely say it’s my thing now,” Rudd said.

Pauline said she wouldn’t really miss the igloo, which has been around for most of her childhood and winter memories.

“I’m glad we did (it),” she said.

Gusitsch is appreciative of Rudd and the effort he puts in to make winter so special for his and the neighborhood’s children.

“It means a lot because it’s something unique that they’re always going to remember,” she said. “When they get older they’re going to remember going to the Rudds’ house for the igloo.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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