Native hunters used to build snow huts (Quinzees) to escape the elements….Shelby and Daniel build Quinzees because there is snow.
Winter campers use Quinzees as a shelter for toasty sleeping conditions….Shelby and Daniel plan to create a village…if our snow holds.
How to build a Quinzee
- Pile up the snow (do not pack it---it is better insulated if it is lofty). This can be powdery dry snow: the science behind it has to do with snowflake structure and fracture—when snowflakes of different temperatures are displaced and piled up a sintering process occurs, causing the snow to bond. Or you could use our friend Jim’s explanation---when you throw the snow flakes into the air, they scream and latch onto one another.
Wait for it to harden. If it is cold, this could take 1-3 hours. If it is warmer, 24 hours. If the weather is really wet and warm, the quinzee is never really ready, and has been known to cave in on a toddler, a preschooler and Granny (but obviously the experience didn’t scar them for life!)
Sometimes we find 6-12 inch sticks and stick them all over the outside of the Quinzee---for the digging out process (when you hit a stick with your shovel, you know to stop digging). The kids prefer to judge by the color of the walls---when they start getting thin, you can see the diffused sunlight—the walls become blue.
When you dig, plan to get wet. If you are winter camping, you want to make sure the door is not facing the wind---and you want to dig up at a slant for the entrance—so that the cold air can sink and exit as you warm the place up.
It can help to dig on your back on a sled---so that your digging partner can slide you out periodically. A sled can also transport snow out….
When you have hollowed out your Quinzee, you can light a candle inside so the walls will glaze up.
If you plan to sleep in the Quinzee, you’ll need ventilation through the ceiling. Most folks don’t cook inside one---definitely you’d need adequate ventilation to avoid dangerous carbon dioxide levels.
If you plan to spend the night, be sure to bring a shovel inside with you in case of blowing or drifting snow---over your exit. Even when it is cursed cold outside, it can get balmy inside the Quinzee!!