The Last Ice Merchant

Chris Higgins
Vimeo / Sandy Patch
Vimeo / Sandy Patch / Vimeo / Sandy Patch

67-year old Baltazar Ushca has been mining ice from Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador since he was a teenager. He brings the ice down the mountain on donkeys, and sells the ice (which he says is the freshest, sweetest ice around) through a shop that has been selling that mountain ice for generations. He is the last ice merchant in town, now that his two brothers have given it up. The family business dies with Baltazar. One of his brothers (a former ice miner) now makes ice cream -- using manufactured ice.

In this 13-minute documentary by Sandy Patch, we get a glimpse of a hard, cold job that is melting away.

The Last Ice Merchant (El Último Hielero) from Sandy Patch on Vimeo.

And here's a bonus feature showing a local ice manufacturer. His business is also threatened by the fact that most people have access to refrigerators and freezers:

Ice Factory Owner Discusses the Ice Business from Sandy Patch on Vimeo.

And one more bonus -- another of Baltazar's brothers used to run a snow cone truck using the Chimborazo ice. Now it's just not worth the gas to drive the truck around:

Juan's Snow Cone Machine from Sandy Patch on Vimeo.

For more on ice harvesting and commercial ice production, see our 2009 feature The Surprisingly Cool History of Ice.