Yécora, hidden at the rear of the parish church of San Juan Bautista located in the village centre, is an old “ice store”, a building where snow was stored in winter with the aim of making ice for use during the spring or even summer.
The ice store is built of ashlar stone forming a circular floor plan that is accessed via a passageway. The roof is domed with a central oculus that served to load and unload the snow, although it is currently shut off. A mound of earth hides and protects the whole structure.
The first references about the sale of snow in Yécora are from 1665. A document of that period certifies that the nearby town of Viana (Navarre) acquired snow in Yécora “from the ice store that exists next to the said place”.
The “ice stores” had been used since ancient times. Its owners filled the pits with snow, took care of it and cut it up to sell it to buyers in the form of ice. The sale of snow would start the “Palm Sunday” and last until harvest time.
During mild winters when snow was scarce, the villagers of Yécora would climb the Sierra de Cantabria mountains to gather it from the peaks. Its value, as one would imagine, varied a lot from one year to the next, depending on how much snow had fallen.
For example, 1761 was a year when it snowed a lot, and up to 24 tons of snow were collected from the mountains. At the time each “arroba” (11.5 kg) was sold for about 24 maravedíes, which is roughly equivalent to about 0.6 cents per kilo.
Its good state of conservation and its characteristics, vast and almost 10 metres high, have made the Yécora ice-store an important tourist attraction for the municipality and Rioja Alavesa. For many years it was almost impossible to access the interior due to the roof of the access tunnel having collapsed, however, its current owners have informed experts of its symbolic importance to the people of the village.
Yécora is 66 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz via the A-2124, BU-750, CL-127 and the A-2126. Logroño is only 17 kilometres away via the N-111 and the A-2126.