By Liesl Clark
What does snow in the backyard have to do with Trash Backwards? Well, we’re all about reuse — whether it’s your clothing, your plastic bags, or the snow in your backyard. And since we have an expert mountaineer on our team, we thought you might like to learn how to build a quinzhee. A what? A quinzhee.
Quinzhee is an Athabaskan word for snow shelter and we now have one in our back yard. Mountaineers learn how to build them as an emergency refuge from the ravages of winter storms in the mountains. This one is just 5 feet from our back door.
How do you build a quinzhee? It’s easy. And you don’t need a lot of snow on the ground to pull it off. We have only about 8 inches of snow here.
First make a huge pile of snow, packing it with shovels and skis if you have them, without walking on the pile. Get it as tall as you can and make it cone-shaped, adding a good volume of snow to the back end. Really pack it down. Let it sit as long as you can to settle the snow and let the snow crystals sinter. Sinter? Yes, sinter. Sintering is bonding of the snow crystals and this happens when snow crystals come in contact with each other. Packing it really helps.
We let ours sit over night. But you might not be so lucky. In the event you are stuck out in a storm in your backyard because you forgot your house key, you can let it sit for an hour.
Next, you’ll want to cut a small entrance close to the ground. You’re essentially cutting a flat slab-like face on the surface of the quinzhee. Then, you can start digging into it.
Dig a small tunnel to start, only large enough to allow your body to slither in. Dig in about a body-length. Then you can start to enlarge the room.
Dig an oval-shaped room, complete with sleeping platforms on either side of the tunnel and inside the void. You want to elevate the sleeping platforms off the ground if you have enough space because the cold sinks to the bottom and the small entrance-way will keep the heat from escaping out the entrance because your entrance is low to the ground. But if you just want it to be a fun playspace, forget about what we’ve said about sleeping platforms. Who’s going to camp in this thing unless they absolutely have to?!
I know you’re still wondering why I’m writing about a quinzhee for Trash Backwards, not convinced by my words about reuse of snow. Well, to tell the truth, my excitement about reuse influences my thinking about all parts of our life. So when the snow falls, my husband and I think about how the snow can be turned into a resource for our family. And this quinzhee has been a true hit.
So, don’t shovel the snow off your sidewalk or driveway! Throw it into a big pile and you’ll have a quinzhee in no time for the whole neighborhood to enjoy.
Looking for other cool things you can do with the stuff in your backyard? Try looking up sticks and branches in our Trash Backwards app for great reuse ideas. Here’s a sampling of the great ideas we have: