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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 7 to 8 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.


Step 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 1 to 2 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.


Step 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.

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


Step 4: 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.

18 Comments on How to Build a Quinzee Snow Shelter

  1. I have no snow yet. :3

  2. Not aYeti ... at all ... // November 11, 2012 at 11:58 pm // Reply

    Where I live, there’s a ton of snow in the winter but i never knew how to build a Quinzee =-P Thanks for the article!!!

  3. I wish that it would snow often here, that looks fun

  4. Sounds pretty cool. I always try to build snow forts but it never works. Once I even succeeded in making one but my dog wrecked it before I even went in it 🙁

  5. i am going to try this when it snows. I cant wait!

  6. proffesional snow builder // November 28, 2011 at 9:11 am // Reply

    If you want to save time just build a quinzee in a snow bank created by snow plows.

    • have you tried that? you do realize the snow is very hard packed when they do that, plus it’s not very even either so will have many air gaps and hard chunks that make it less structurally sound

    • Snow warning // January 19, 2013 at 9:46 am // Reply

      Please please please, don’t build this in the snowpile created by the road plows. You could easily get hit and trapped inside if they return to push another foot or two off the roads OR if a car parking on the street pushes into your quinzee without knowing it.

      • IT IS Cool but dangerous // December 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm //

        Snow warnings is right that is dangerous and you could get hurt doing that personally I wouldn’t do it dude just my opinion so please don’t do that

  7. Dont light a fire in your quinze unlees you wanyt all of your stuff to get wet if you want to cook somthing bring along a back packing stove and use that to boil water for hot chocolate just make sure you keep all flamables away from it and make sure you put it under the vent in the top(prevents melt-down)

  8. ME TOO

  9. cool I’ll try it next time it snows

  10. james1234567890 // February 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm // Reply

    can you build a fire inseide one of these?

    • mountaineersam // May 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm // Reply

      No you cannot light a fire in one on these because then it melts and gets your gear wet and then you get hypothermic. build a small vestibule so if you want to cook with a stove you are shielded from the wind but can cook and avoid carbon monoxide poisining so dragon fly dont light a fire if you dont want to barf blood and go to the hospital

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