How to build a Quinzee

By Kelli Rogers 14 September 2009
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
Learn to build one of the easiest snow shelters – a cross between an igloo and a snow cave.

TEMPERATURES INSIDE A SNOW shelter will be at least 0°C no matter what is going on outside – pile in a few climbers and it’ll be even warmer. One of the easiest snow shelters to build is the quinzee (or digloo), a cross between an igloo and a snow cave. Whether it’s for an emergency shelter, or just for a different overnight experience, start digging for your own snow sleeping quarters.

1. Find a sheltered position on level ground.

2. For a quinzee with an inner diameter of 1.8 m, mark off a circular area that is at least 2.5 m in diameter.

3. Start piling snow on this area. As you shovel, alternate flipping the snow over so that it is thoroughly mixed. The more you disturb the snow, the stronger it will be to stabilize the quinzee.

4. The pile should get to about 1.8 m high. Construct the top to give it a dome shape, but don’t pack down the snow.

5. Poke plenty (around 25-30) of 30-45 cm long sticks through the top and sides (perpendicular to the outside edges) of your snow pile to act as guides for the wall thickness.

6. Wait two or three hours for the sintering process, where snow crystals adhere to each other; the snow must harden before you can hollow out the interior.

7. Start digging. Begin by making a small opening dip below ground level and back up into the structure on the down-wind side. As you work your way forward, start slanting upwards so the sleeping platform is slightly raised.

8. Keep hollowing out until you reach the ends of the sticks you poked through earlier, or until you see light starting to come through.

9. Smooth the ceiling as much as possible, then light candles to harden the interior surfaces.

10. Punch ventilation holes with a stick and check them frequently to keep them clear. (This is important, if building a shelter to endure a snow storm. Ensure someone stays awake to maintain some ventilation.)