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Nevero de Camarillas



The artificial snow pit is a pit dug in the ground with retaining walls, of small or large dimensions and even with a roof, which has openings for the introduction of snow and later the extraction of the ice.

They are man-made and consist of two distinct parts: the shaft and the roof.

The shaft consists of a hollow excavated in an earthy slope lined with stone masonry walls. The essential requirement is a permeable bottom or, failing that, a slightly sloping floor with a drain for draining the melt water from the ice stored in order to ensure that the rest of the ice freezes properly. In the Camarillas icehouse, a drainage strip can be seen, as well as small cavities along the perimeter of the wall that allowed the water to drain down to the bottom of the icehouses.



The activity of artificial snow pits has been known since Roman times (2,000 B.C.), its great development took place between the 16th and 19th centuries, and it was used until the middle of the 20th century, when, with the appearance of electrical appliances, it fell into disuse. The Camarillas icehouse dates from around the 17th or 18th century.


  1) Snow collection: The work in the snow pits began in spring, after the last snowfalls. They collected the snow that had fallen in the surrounding area with shovels and took it to the snow pits.

2) Storage: The first thing they did inside the icehouse was to place a layer of boards, vine shoots or branches at the base so that the load of ice would not come into contact with the snow that was being given away.

The snow was then pressed and trodden into layers of ice between 20 and 50 cm thick. When the snow was trodden on, it was compacted for two purposes: to reduce the volume occupied and to keep it in the form of ice for a longer period of time. This work, which was carried out inside the icehouse, was the most arduous task.

Next, another layer of straw, leaves, etc., was spread to serve as thermal insulation and to make it easier to remove the slab of ice. They would successively fill the entire interior of the pit, layer by layer of straw with layer of ice.

3) Extraction of the ice: In summer, stored blocks of ice were cut and extracted by means of hooks and with the help of ropes and pulleys.

4) Transport and sale of ice: The delivery of ice or snow was a service to the population that was administered by the town councils, which in turn were the owners of the wells but leased them to private companies for exploitation, for a period of time contracted by public auction. It was awarded to the one who paid the most and promised the best service. They prohibited other municipalities from selling in their own and thus prevented unfair competition. The resulting ice was sold by the towns that requested it.

The ice was sold from the beginning of May until mid-October. The ice was transported preferably at night, for better preservation of the product, on horse-drawn carts suitably protected by goatskins loaded with baskets of ice, or serones, which were usually wrapped in sackcloth.


It was used for therapeutic and culinary purposes. The most common therapeutic uses of ice have been: to lower the temperature in febrile processes, those produced by the cholera epidemic, as a painkiller in cases of cerebral congestion and particularly in meningitis, to stop haemorrhages and as an anti-inflammatory or in trauma, sprains or fractures.

In the kitchen it was used to preserve food, to refresh drinks and to make ice cream.

As early as the Middle Ages, its use in Aragon is mentioned in the account book of the royal house of Pedro III of Aragon (1239-1285), which clearly mentions the consumption of ice cream. However, its use really became popular in the mid-16th and 17th centuries, when the construction of ice-cream coolers in the area boomed.


The progressive implementation of ice factories from 1890 onwards in various cities gradually put aside the network of ice fields and the production of ice by taking advantage of the climate. Until then, a natural resource (renewed annually) was used in a sustainable way, although it depended on the weather, which gave rise to periods of scarcity of ice as opposed to other periods of heavy snowfalls that filled the mountains with snow and labourers.

With the advent of refrigerators and the industrial production of ice, dependence on the weather was avoided and artificial ice houses became obsolete.

It is also said that today, due to climate change, it would be impossible to cover the minimum needs by means of the wells, it would be useless to look for snow or ice to fill them.

At the time of their disappearance, it is said that their last clients were the spas.

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