Build a Snow Fort - The Quinzhee January 13, 2009 09:30

There are exactly 66 days left until the end of winter .

You have lot of snow and a lot of time left to build a snow fort . If you are at the cabin with nothing to do, looking out the window at all that unadulterated whiteness, its time to grab a shovel and get busy.

A quinzhee is a shelter made by hollowing out a pile of settled snow. This is in contrast to an igloo, which is made from blocks of snow.

If snow forts were houses, Igloos would be the large ornate mansions and Quinzhees would be efficient simple bungalows.

We’re going to show you how to build a snow fortequivalent of the simple, modern snow bungalow.

You will need:

  • Scoop Shovel, Ski Pole, String, Snow

    The Process

    A quick word of caution: It is best to do this project with a partner and be aware of the dangers a weak snow fort present. Ensure your walls are thick enough and the structure is sound before entering.


    1. Outline the Footprint of Your Snow Fort: Take a ski pole or a broomstick and place it vertically in the snow. Tie a 4′ string to the pole with a stake on the end. Use this as a compass to make an 8′ circle in the snow. Make sure the mark is deep and definite in the snow so you don’t lose the outline as you begin to build.

    2. Start Shovelling: Begin shoveling snow from outside the circle into a nice pile inside the circle. Pack the snow down with the underside of your shovel as the pile grows in size. If you have snowshoes you might want to put them on and do some kind of snow dance to achieve a nice dense pile.

    3. Pile the Snow 6′ High: Keep piling the snow until you have a nice dome shaped mound that is about 6′ tall. Try to avoid a cone shape as you will not end up with enough interior space. And no one likes to chill in a cramped snow fort, I mean no one.

    4. Shape the Mound: If you’re like us and demand a perfectly shaped dome it pays to take your time shaping the mound. Use your mitts or other implements of your own devising. *You may have noticed a strange contraption mounted to the snow fort we built. Lets just say that is the beginning of a revolution in snow fort construction. We’ll fill you in down the road.

    5. Let the Snow Settle: Make an arched shape mark in the snow to mark the entrance and go back inside to warm up and distract yourself for about 2 hours. The snow will settle and consolidate in this time leaving you with a nice dense material to sculpt your snow fort from. If you don’t let the pile settle long enough the snow will not be firm enough and the structure will fail. And you’ve worked too hard up to this point for that to happen.

    6. Dig Out the Center of the Mound: Start by cutting into the pile along the line you marked for the arched entrance. Dig towards the center of the snow fort. Remove the snow entirely from inside and attempt to place it as far from the door as you can throw it because it will quickly start to gather around your entrance. Be careful not to make the walls too thin. Once your interior is formed you can smooth the interior and exterior surfaces. You might light a candle and use it to glaze the inside walls. This will melt the snow slightly and creates a glassy layer when it refreezes.

    And there you have it, a Quinzhee. A simple way to build a snow fort .