Whether you’re trying to survive in the frigid wilderness or you’re camping out in the winter for fun, building a quinzee is a great option for creating a shelter from the elements. All you need for its construction is a big pile of snow, which you then hollow out. Because it lacks a skeletal support structure, you’ll want to keep your quinzee relatively small — ideally building it for 3 people at the most. Shoveling all that snow works up a sweat, and snow will fall on you as you hollow out the inside, so be sure to change into dry clothes when you’re done to prevent hypothermia.
In today’s illustrated guide, we show you how to build your own quinzee with tips from Winter in the Wilderness by Dave Hall.
- Shovel powdery snow in a large pile that will fit 1-2 people about 6-10 feet in diameter and 5-7 feet tall.
- Shape the snow into a rounded mound and then let it “sinter” (harden) for at least an hour (the longer, the better). While waiting, collect a pile of straight sticks.
- Insert the sticks into your snow dome to about a 12″ depth. These will help you determine your wall thickness when you’re hollowing your shelter out.
- Time to hollow out your shelter!. Dig an entrance on the downhill side of the pile. Make it large enough so you’ll have plenty of room to excavate snow. From the inside of the dome, remove snow in any direction until you reach the end of a stick.
- Build sleeping platforms with the last foot of snow. If desired, make the entrance to your quinzee smaller by placing smaller snow blocks around the door.
- Enjoy! You’ll stay surprisingly warm in the shelter.
Illustration by Ted Slampyak