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How to build a quinzee snow shelter

A quinzee is a simple shelter made by hollowing out a big pile of snow. They can take several hours to build, but are an effective way to stay warm when camping in the winter. Here’s how to build one.


Step 1: Shovel a pile of snow into a mound seven to eight feet high and big enough around to hold two people once it is hollowed out. Mix snow of different temperatures to cause it to harden, or “sinter.” Flip the snow over so it mixes when you pile it into a mound.


quinzee-2.jpgStep 2: Shape the mound into a dome and allow it to sinter for about 90 minutes. Then begin to hollow out the mound.

Dig a small entrance on the downhill side. Smooth out the walls and ceiling. The walls should be one to two feet thick. Poke measuring sticks through from the outside of the mound, so you will know to stop hollowing out the inside when you see the ends of the sticks. Hollow the shelter out from the top down.


quinzee-3.jpgStep 3: Use the last foot of snow to make elevated snowbeds. Dig a narrow trench between the beds all the way to the ground. This allows cold air to flow down and out of the quinzee. Poke a small ventilation hole near the top of the dome.


quinzee-4.jpgStep 4: Building a quinzee will make you sweat. Prevent hypothermia by changing into warm dry clothes after you finish building your shelter.

Make sure you mark your entrance in case it gets covered with snow while you are away having fun. Keep a small shovel inside in case you need to dig your way out.



– If you have to visit the latrine in the middle of the night, eat a snack afterward to help warm up your body and get back to sleep. Don’t worry about keeping the snacks in your quinzee — when you camp in winter, you don’t have to worry about bears.

– Jell-O gelatin mix makes a great hot drink. Store Jello-O powder in refillable backpacking tubes and add it to hot water. Try cherry Jell-O in instant hot chocolate!

– Eat your meals from their packages. Vacuum-sealed meals and packages of oatmeal can be opened and used as “bowls.” If you don’t rip the top off completely, you’ll have only one piece of trash to dispose of.

– Bury your water jugs in a snowdrift. The snow insulates the water and keeps it from freezing.

10 Comments on How to build a quinzee snow shelter

  1. I’m going to try it now. I hope it works!

  2. I built a quinzee at our local Polar Prowl event for Cub scouts. I made the pile and eventually it worked out, but the hardest part was keeping the Cubs off of the pile.

  3. Thanks! This will help me when I am building by quinzee in tahoe!

  4. I live in Alaska were it snows a lot. I make lots of snow forts and snow cave but not Quinzee Snow Shelter. I will try that sometime.

  5. thanks for the tips i tried to build one this winter and it fell down

  6. banana eater // February 4, 2008 at 9:42 am // Reply

    Quinzee building is alot easier with a snow blower =)

  7. Awesome, I can’t wait to build one!!

  8. pyro maniac scout // February 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm // Reply

    this shelter is a really good idea if you have to do an arctic owl campout i used one and it was -15 below zero outside but in my shelter it was 25 degrees warmer

  9. I made a snow quinzee at winter camp with snow blocks piled up for walls. I used branches for a ceiling. I slept in it overnight too!! It was fun even though I was a little cold.

  10. I made one it was cool and cold but fun to make!

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