Massive snow fort takes shape in Basalt yard |

Massive snow fort takes shape in Basalt yard

Photo Courtesy Lynn GoldsmithMike Fondo built this snow castle in his yard at Willits Lane. The massive project has become an attraction for locals.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Mike Fondo had time on his hands this winter so he did what any fun-loving 44-year-old would do ” he built a snow castle.

Not just any castle, like the kind kids build in their backyards. This is snow castle supreme ” 37 feet long, 16 feet high with three towers protruding higher, and 12 feet thick. It is in the front yard of his residence along Willits Lane in the midvalley.

“Everyone’s stopping by and taking pictures when I’m out here working,” Fondo said. He plants a pirate flag on top, when he remembers, and his pet, Corn Dog, sunbathes on the structure.

“Everybody loves to see Corn Dog sitting on top of it,” Fondo said.

Curious motorists saw the castle taking shape in early December when Fondo fired up a homemade snowmaking machine. He hooked hoses from a power washer and air compressor to a special implement he obtained to create a snowmaking gun. His yard in the Basalt-area banana belt was transformed overnight into a winter wonderland. It looked like Jack Frost flew over and sprinkled the yard with a dusting of glistening snow. Within days the snowpile grew and by Christmas, Fondo had shaped the castle and adorned it with LED Christmas lights.

The January dry spell and following rain took its toll on Fort Fondo. It lost at least 6 feet from melting and compression, squishing two windows flat. He fired up the snow gun again when temperatures cooled down, then reshaped the upper castle and punched in two new windows. Fondo estimated he has put 150 hours into the castle between snowmaking, digging out the base of walls and forming a smooth wall face with a chain saw.

He figures the castle contains 40 tons of snow. It’s solid rather than hollowed out. With all that snow, it’s a safe bet Fondo won’t be watering his lawn this spring and early summer. “I would think it will be here until May at least,” he said.

He has his own well, so the cost of water wasn’t an issue and he said his electrical bill went up only marginally because of the snowmaking.

Fondo didn’t have a childhood history of building elaborate snow structures; he grew up in Florida. His inspiration for the castle was simply idle hands. He has a tree trimming business, so winter is a slow time.

He usually visits a friend in the Bahamas at this time of year, but money is tight, so Fondo decided to make the best of the cold and snow.

“I had time on my hands,” he said.

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