Dorian and Brent, Day Hiking Ambassadors
So our quinzee is looking pretty good these days. Around 5 years ago we found “the spot”, and ever since then it has been a home away from home. As we write this, we’re only a couple of hours away from heading up there for an evening of maintenance, snacks, and relaxation. We tried a bit of an experiment this year. Using an avalanche snow probe with depth markings, we decided on a certain floor thickness and have maintained it at that snow level. It’s 40 cm to the dirt. This is the thinnest floor we’ve ever had, but we wanted to make sure at the very least we had something happening this season. Quinzees are snow dwellings that are created from shoveling snow into piles and packing it down so you can eventually dig into it. Earlier in the season after a decent dump of snow we went up to the initial pile. After depleting all the snow we could scrape up, we packed it all down by walking all over it with our snowshoes. Every time there was snowfall, we went up and did the same thing until there was a pile big enough and solid enough to dig into. Here’s where the fun begins. You want to choose your entrance with a few things in mind.
Things like wind direction, ease of entrance, and can it be seen by anyone casually strolling by etc. It’s always fun to build with others, but doing this on your own is no big deal. You just have more work to do when it comes time to get rid of the snow as you hollow out your pyramid. Sometimes after a big dumping of snow it’s a challenge to actually find the opening, so a good idea is to put a tall stick where the opening was in case you have to play hide and seek. It can be a little freaky the first couple of times you get in there but you learn to trust it over time. We also use the avi probe to determine how thick the ceiling is, and have played around with various thicknesses. You don’t want it so thin that it will collapse easily, but you also don’t want to be killed by tons of snow either. It’s a balance that only the builders can come to grips with based on comfort level. I think the deepest under snow we have ever been under was 8 feet of ceiling, but it was pretty rock hard. Thaw and freeze cycles also contribute to the sturdiness of a quinzee as well. We often hollow out our dwelling and then light a couple of candles to heat the inside up a bit, and then it glazes over later upon cool down. Don’t forget to poke a little hole up through the roof for ventilation if you plan on using candles. There’s lots of information about quinzees floating around, so check into it if you are at all interested.