How to Build a Survival Snow Shelter

In harsh conditions, an easy-to-build snow ­shelter gets you warm and out of the wind

A few years ago, my brother Ted and I traveled across Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories on snowmobiles en route to Uluhoktok, a village on the Arctic Circle. We drove through subzero temps and wicked winds. Ted and I would camp in tents and cabins, but before the trip I made sure I learned how to build a survival shelter if the situation were to call for it. Something with insulation, that’s easy to make and strong against the wind. Something like a quinzhee. Which looks something like this.

build snow shelter
The pile and the stick.Dogo

[1] Pile Shovel a mound of snow big enough for you to sit comfortably inside. The heavier the snow, the smaller your pile of snow has to be, but the tougher it'll be to dig out. Take your time. You don't want to build up a sweat.

[2] Stick Gather a bunch of sticks or branches and break them into foot-long lengths. Insert these all over the mound, about 7 or 8 inches deep. They will ensure that you leave the walls thick enough as you dig from the inside.

snow shelter
Excavate.Dogo

[3] Excavate Dig an entrance that's just small enough for you to crawl into. A small shovel works best, as it's easier to use in the small space and less likely to carve away too much from the walls. Stop digging when you hit the sticks. Roll a big snowball to use as a door, or use your backpack. Poke a hole through the roof for a chimney, and enjoy the warmth.

GEAR TIP: Voile XLM Avalanche Shovel

This shovel ($40; voile-usa.com) should be an essential for any snowmobile rider. The collapsible design allows for easy, quick stowing, and it can move plenty of snow. It's great for digging away drifts and piles to set up your tent or emergency shelter. —J.B.

RELATED: