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Building a quinzee is fun, fairly easy, and requires very few tools to complete. Spending a weekend building a quinzee is both an awesome winter adventure and a great way to learn a new outdoor skill. Knowing how to build an emergency quinzee could potentially save your life if you’re ever stranded in a cold weather environment and have lost your way.



  • Shovel
  • Depth gauge – a sturdy stick will work
  • 10-20 1.5 foot long sticks
  • Winter jacket
  • Snow pants
  • Gloves
  • Winter boots
  • Toque
  • Sleeping bag – if you plan on sleeping in the quinzee
  • Sleeping pad
  • Dry clothes to sleep in
  • Snow!


Anderson and our Quinzee - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 1: Anderson and our Quinzee



Step 1: Create a large dome of snow.

The first step when building a quinzee is to determine how much snow you have to work with.  A depth gauge (or sturdy stick) is best to check how deep the snow is in your construction area.  You will need to build a mound of snow 5-7 feet high so the amount of snow in the area may affect the size of quinzee you can construct. When marking out the size of the quinzee the length should be 4 feet longer than the tallest person, and width large enough to fit the amount of people you have, including the wall thickness. The quinzee walls will be approximately 1.5 feet wide.   For two people a circular base with a 10 foot diameter results in a nice spacious quinzee. Once you have marked out the base of the quinzee, shovel snow into a mound 5-7 feet tall. After completing the mound walk on top of the dome to help pack the snow down, this will help provide structural integrity to the walls and roof.


Mattson shovelling - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 2: Mattson shovelling
The completed dome of snow - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 3: The completed dome of snow


Step 2: Insert sticks into quinzee walls.

Take 10-20 1.5 ft. long sticks and insert them into the dome. Evenly space the sticks out every one to two feet. These will act as depth gauges when hollowing out the inside of the quinzee.


Quinzee construction diagram - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 4: Quinzee construction diagram


Step 3: Let it sit.

Let the pile of snow sit for 90 minutes to two hours. This will allow the snow to sinter together and solidify, giving the walls more strength.

Step 4: Hollow out the inside.

After letting the dome sit it is time to hollow out the inside. Start by digging out the door on the lowest side of the mound. This will allow the cold air to exit and hopefully prevent heat from escaping. You want the door to be as small as possible to keep the heat in.

Dig out the main area of the quinzee until you can see the sticks poking through. When you find a stick it means the wall in that area is 1.5 feet thick. Keep hollowing out the inside until you have found all of your sticks and the inside of the quinzee has a dome shape. (Having someone outside the quinzee clearing snow away from the entrance as you hollow out the inside saves time and makes construction A LOT easier)

Anderson working on the door - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 5: Anderson working on the door
Hollowing out the inside of the quinzee - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 6: Hollowing out the inside of the quinzee


Step 5: Create a sleeping platform.

When clearing out the interior keep in mind that cold air sinks and hot air rises. This concept is very relevant and noticeable when in a quinzee. Building a level, elevated sleeping platform with a small trench in the middle will help the cold air flow out the door.


Sleeping platform diagram - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 7: Sleeping platform diagram

Step 6: Create air holes.

Once you’ve built your sleeping platform, remove all the sticks from the roof and walls. These holes will act as ventilation holes to allow fresh oxygen to enter the quinzee and carbon dioxide to escape. This step is very important as it is possible to suffocate in a quinzee if there is not enough air exchange. There should be roughly 10-15 holes with the thickness of a broomstick.

Bonus Step: Add a fireplace.

Though not totally necessary a fire pit can be added inside the quinzee. If you want to add a section for a fire pit, add a little bit of extra snow when building your mound and note where it is using sticks. Once you’ve hollowed out you fireplace area, make a hole at the top of it about the size of your fist to act as a chimney.


Quinzee fireplace - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 8: Quinzee fireplace

Final Step: Get Cozy.

Your quinzee in now complete. Setup your sleeping bags on sleeping pads and use a candle or lantern for light. You can build shelves into the walls or put a bent stick into the roof to hang things from. When you go to sleep, put a backpack or clothes in the entrance to block the door and help keep as much heat in as you can.


Important: When building the quinzee you will sweat.  Once you have finished construction change into warm dry clothes to prevent hypothermia.


Bedtime in the quinzee - Montana - Epic Trip Adventures
Image 9: Bedtime in the quinzee


Thank you for choosing Epic Trip Adventures as your guide.  We are committed to continually updating our guides to be as relevant and accurate as possible. If you have feedback to improve this guide please leave it in the comments below.

We also want to hear about your Quinzee adventures.  If you have stories, pictures or even a link to your own adventure video please share them below!


Have fun out there!