There I was: outside in the cold with three teenagers, my glasses fogged up and my fingers numb, sawing away at a pile of snow. Just another day at work!

How did I get here?

In case you missed it, it snowed a little on Saturday, Jan. 29.

It snowed so much Dominos was not delivering.

It snowed so much most gas stations were closed.

It snowed so much public authorities asked people to stay home.

So of course I went out and drove down the street to get some photos for the website.

Come Monday morning, my mid-blizzard photos were old news, though. I required new, post-blizzard photos for the newspaper.

As I was walking out the door, my boss got a phone call with a tip the Mid-coast School of Technology was building an igloo outside. These are the hot tips we get at The Courier-Gazette, and a big part of why I love my job. Where else do people call up with the news that teenagers are outside playing?

I call the school and am told to come on down. The teacher will talk to me and send me pictures, as the structure will be destroyed for liability reasons.

I showed up expecting it to be a five-minute conversation. What actually happened was I met with three students from around Knox County and got a lesson in snow survival.

Because the students did not build an igloo; they built a quinzee. The difference is the building method — like a ranch style home versus a Victorian. That was the first thing the three students told me, quite adamantly.

As a former teacher, it was great to experience. It was the kind of moment teachers dream about. These three students were able to tell me all about the snow structures they built, why they made the choices they did and what they would do if faced with a snow survival situation on their own.

Then, I agreed to take their picture in front of the remaining snow structures. This involved, of course, a short hike downhill through the snow. At least I wore my boots!

When we arrived at the snow trenches and the snow quarry, class was in session. The students walked me around the structures and showed me how they were built. Then they showed me the snow quarry and harvested a couple blocks of snow.

A snow quarry is exactly what it sounds like — snow that has been packed down and allowed to settle for harvest, a process called sintering. After a few hours, the snow is ready. The students demonstrated the harvest by taking out a tool literally called a snow saw and sawing blocks of snow from the mound.

Then they handed me the saw. “Do you want to try?” they asked.

I did not, but how could I turn them down? I slung my camera around behind my back and went to work.

I started sawing away at the snow like it was a loaf of bread, my brain not fully processing the directions. All three teens and the teacher tried to tell me I was pointing the saw the wrong way. Finally, one student took my hand and showed me.

I was able to harvest a block of solid snow, which I could then use to build a snow structure. It was pretty cool!

As we were walking back inside, me struggling to close my camera with frozen fingers, the teacher told me he had taken a photo of me. Could he put it on the school’s Instagram? Of course he could, but I also needed a copy to prove that I had gone above and beyond.

Christine Simmonds is the Assistant Editor of The Courier-Gazette. She has lived in Knox County most of her life.

Christine Simmonds harvests blocks of snow with Mid-coast School of Technology students. Photo courtesy of Mid-coast School of Technology