How to Build an Impenetrable Snow Fort

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 9, 2010 · 22 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

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Last week we began a short series of posts on essential “snow play” skills to prepare you for the coming winter. Whether you’re looking to get out in the snow yourself or want to impart invaluable dad knowledge to your kids, these tips will help you get the most out of the white fluffy stuff that for many of you started falling this week! We began by discussing how to make the perfect snow ball. Today we cover the next essential skill to dominate in a snow ball fight: snow fort building.

While trees, mailboxes, and other objects can work as makeshift cover, nothing can protect you from a snow missile onslaught like a well-built snow fort. The following tips on snow fort building were inspired by the awesome instructions in The American Boys Handy Book.

Trace out the fort’s perimeter. In the snow, trace a line that will serve as the fort’s perimeter. Make it large enough to protect 3 or 4 of your comrades along with an arsenal of snowballs. If you lack massive amounts of snow, you might not have the luxury of four walls and will have to make do with just one. Having something to crouch behind is better than being entirely exposed.

Start making snow bricks. You have a few options when making snow bricks. The first method involves rolling big snowballs as if you were going to make a snowman. This method requires no outside tools, just your hands and a strong back. Another option is to form bricks using an empty cooler or plastic tub. Just pack as much snow as you can in the cooler, turn it upside down, and presto! Instant snow brick. I find this method much more efficient than the snowball rolling method.

Build the wall. While one man makes the snow bricks, another man stacks them up to form the walls. A four foot wall is an ideal height. It’s tall enough to protect most children and crouching adults.

Fill in the gaps with snow. Once you’ve finished stacking all the snow bricks, fill in the gaps with some well packed snow. You should have a solid snow wall when finished.

Flatten the walls. After you’ve filled in the gaps, take a shovel and spade and sculpt the walls so that they’re perpendicular to each other on the inside, but slanting on the outside. When you’re done, it should look something like this:

Douse with water. After you complete the fort, fill a bucket up with some water and douse the fort’s wall. The water will help ice things up and turn your snow wall into an ice wall. Start stocking your fort with a snowball ammo cache. Now you’re ready for an out all snowball war or a rousing game of capture the flag.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maureen December 9, 2010 at 10:34 am

For those of us who don’t get enough snow even for one decent wall, a pickup truck makes an excellent wall while providing a bed full of snow ammo. But this probably only applies if you live out in the country and the nearest kids to play with are your brothers rather than the neighborhood kiddies.

2 Nathan December 9, 2010 at 10:38 am

When I was young, my best snow fortresses were constructed by finding a good pile of snow that was piled up by snow plows and the like. Just dig out the inside of your fort to your liking. As you dig you likely will find good, moist snow to use as an endless (and sheltered!) supply of good snowball ammunition.

3 JG December 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

Word of caution: Do not throw buckets of water on your fort. If the snow is not packed right, then the force of the water could cause the walls to melt.

If you really want to do a good job, which all the neighborhood children will be jealous of, then I suggest dragging out the garden hose and SPRAY water mist a few times. It is just like adding shellac to any wood projects. Several light applications will be more effective than using buckets.,

4 Nate Gilbert December 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

This article reminded me of this episode. One of my all time favorites.

5 Adrian December 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Shame we don’t get snow here in my city…

6 Mark Petersen December 9, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I would recommend using a water balloon slingshot (rubber surgical tubing with a pouch to hold the snowball or water balloon) as your primary base defense. It can also be used for indirect fire support like a mortar.

7 J.D. December 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

the 2 times in my childhood that it snowed, my friends down the road built a good fort so we adopted guerilla warfare. sooner or later, they are gonna get bored sitting in that fort, and they always came out to play. that’s when we hit’em fast and furious!

8 Ted December 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm

My mother bought me this book when I was 10 or so. I must have read this particular section a dozen times. Unfortunately it hasn’t really helped since we live in Florida. Someday, though, I hope to take my two boys up north for the winter just so we can build snow forts.

9 Ryan Tyler December 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I think snow forts are a chance to teach the value of hard work.

Get a shovel and work harder than your opponent.

10 John December 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm

My dad wouldn’t let us use the hose to spray down snow constructions, since the faucet and pipes might then freeze and burst. Instead, we used a hand-held 2-gallon sprayer (in summer, used for spraying herbicide on thistles). It had a hand operated plunger pump on top to pressurize it; much nicer than holding your thumb over the end of a hose in winter.

11 Christina H. December 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I love this article!!!!! Now I must plan to visit a friend where it snows where I can make this happen!!!! LOVE it!

12 Connor Gallagher December 9, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Here in Ottawa, we got over 12 ft. of snow a couple years back, so you didn’t even need to make one because the snow was already so deep.

13 Kirk December 9, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Ha! Me & my boy built 2 (one on each side of the driveway) 2 days ago.. We’re in Syracuse.. So it was a snow day/no school. :)
Fun times!

14 Patrick McIntosh December 10, 2010 at 2:16 am

So Awesome! Going to use this in Tahoe this weekend!

15 Peter December 10, 2010 at 5:12 am

When I was very young, I got a very, very, very old copy of the American Boy’s Handybook from the local library. I wasn’t really able to do as many of the things in it as I would have liked, so when I got a little older I bought a new copy and found that the part I was most looking forward to, the instructions for homebrew explosives, was taken out.
Either way, it’s a great book, and a lot of the projects are really fun! Definitely check it out. I never built the snow fort though.

16 Miller December 10, 2010 at 8:22 am

My dad being a carpenter and all, we always had plenty of spare plywood around…using four pieces of plywood on edge, outlined one wall, took shovels and packed with snow, poured water, then removed the plywood and did the same thing for the other walls…those would stand until late April

17 Carter December 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

That would be fun, but for driving around I am sure glad we don’t get that much snow in Memphis! I am just fine with having to travel to see substantial amounts of snow.

to Miller above: That reminds me of the ice hotel they make in Russia every year, which just happens to be on my life list!

18 joe December 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

How do you enter and leave the fort?

19 Durp December 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm

build a door you tard

20 Will December 20, 2010 at 2:22 am

Oh man…I saw the thumbnail image on the main site page, and immediately knew where it was from! I read those books threadbare when I was younger. Ah, nostalgia…

21 Swanson November 5, 2012 at 12:54 am

I have the book these diagrams are taken from. It’s “TheAmerican Boys Handibook” and has even more cool stuff that me and many other high schoolers like me would greatly appreciate.

22 issac January 20, 2013 at 9:15 am

how can we make a roof for the snow fort?

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