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How To: Build A Snow Shelter

You never plan on getting stuck out in the cold, but s-t happens. Maybe you wonder off the backside of the resort, get disoriented in a storm, or just have a heavy backcountry day and can’t make it back to the car. Whatever the case, these steps will teach you how to create a shelter that will protect you overnight.

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Choose Wisely
Pick a zone away from dangers such as avalanches or cornices with at least four- to five-foot deep snow. If the snow’s not deep enough, pile it into a big mound. A bank or leeward slope can serve well and also protect from wind.

webstep41Tunnel In
Start by digging a trench downward, about five feet deep. Then excavate a horizontal tunnel two feet from the bottom of the trench that’s two feet longer and two feet wider than yourself. Use the snow you remove to support the roof and sides of the shelter. The lip at the entrance will protect from wind and also prevent warm air from escaping.

 

webstep32Shape It Up
Once you can squeeze inside, begin smoothing out the walls and creating enough space to sit upright. Create a smooth, dome-shaped ceiling that’s at least a foot thick. The thicker the walls, the more insulated your shelter will be.

 

 

 

webstep22Finish It Off
You don’t have to get Martha Stewart on it, but there are a few crucial touches. A raised platform will keep you closer to the warmer air and a bed of pine bows will keep you surprisingly warm and comfortable, by raising you off the snow. Make a small (two inch diameter) vent hole in the roof with a stick or pole to allow your exhaled carbon dioxide to exit.

 

webtipJust The Tip
If you think people will be searching for you, make your shelter visible by putting your board in plain sight or flagging it with extra clothing.