Call it an Olympics-sized snow fort.

With nothing but snow from the curbs, a family in Crystal has turned its front yard into a 12-foot-high luge course, complete with lighting hung from the trees and its own neighborhood games to celebrate the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

When the first big snowfall came in early December, Savannah, Evan, and Morgan Smith — ages 12, 10, and 7, respectively — got to work on one-upping last year’s snow fort. Their dad, Tim, built the base by using a snowblower to fill a refrigerator-sized box that served as a mold. From there, the kids sculpted more snow into the slide, its two switchback curves, tunnels going under the track and — mandatory for a snow fort — bunkers for snowball fights.

Coordinating the effort is Tim, who, in a Clark Griswold-like twist, has even sprayed the sled bottoms with sili­cone. But he gives all the credit to the kids, who designed the track, with Evan mocking up the plans, and then “harvested” snow blocks from the snowplow buildup on the curb and packed it into shape.

Tim said the family — including mom Lila, the self-described “support system on the inside” who washed snowsuits and brought out water — spent 100 or more hours together to build the course. That, Tim said, is part of the project.

“It’s an opportunity to be together and do something,” he said, instead of “[things] you don’t want the kids doing, like watching TV or playing video games.”

Plus, Smith said, “The Vikings season didn’t go very long, so we couldn’t watch football.”

Instead, the kids have made their own sport. There are team and individual time trials, but also invented games like Ice Riddage, where the luger tries to drop snowballs in holes along the edge of the course, or Fashion Takeover, where they try to grab the mittens off the hands of kids lining the track.

Evan has already drawn up a poster for the neighborhood Olympics, where families will compete as teams. In the meantime, the kids have front-yard access to a winter jungle gym so impressive it got coverage on NBC’s “Today” show.

Now that all their work is done, how do they feel?

“Good,” said Evan. “Now we can play more on the slide.”


Graison Hensley Chapman is a Northfield freelance writer. He can be reached at