Introduction: How to Build a Snow Fort

Early childhood memories often include the satisfaction of playing with a fresh snowfall making snow angels, throwing snow balls, and seeing who could build the larger snowman. If you want to feel a little nostalgic then this Instructable is for you. We will add one more snow creation to that list by describing how to build your own snow fort!

Step 1: Safety and Equipment

Since a prerequisite of snow fort construction is snow, it is going to be cold outside. That means wear proper winter attire, which includes
1. hats,
2. insulated and waterproof gloves,
3. winter coats,
4. scarves,
5. face masks,
6. snow pants,
7. snow boots, and
8. extra layers on your feet especially. You will also require a shovel or similar scooping tool. The early stages of frostbite are called “frost nips” and most likely occur on your toes;  they are marked by discolored yellow skin and an extreme burning sensation when warmed. It is highly recommended you do not work alone or sit alone in a snow fort. When a snow collapses, it is not very audible and somebody trapped in a caved-in fort could be at risk of suffocating if the weight is too great.

Step 2: Getting Started

 A snow fort design can start in limitless ways. This guide will describe the hollowing method of creating a snow fort. The first step is to find an area in close proximity to large piles of loose snow because you must shovel it into an appropriately sized base pile subject to the dimensions you want your snow fort to meet. If the snow is too frozen to shovel then you will need to find a new area and if the snow is too soft you will have to compress your base snow pile so a cave-in does not occur while hollowing the fort. The easiest way to do this is simply walking over your base pile several times and your weight should suffice to make the snow manageable.

Step 3: Hollowing Your Fort

Once you have an appropriately sized base snow pile, you get to do the gratifying work of hollowing out the mound. If you are building on a flat surface, be sure to face the door opposite the direction the wind is blowing to encourage a warmer fort.  If you are building on a hill, avoid creating the door at the bottom of the slant because removing the supporting snow from the area all the weight of the fort is resting on is a good route to collapse.  Now that you have decided where to build your door, start shoveling from the bottom of the mound and work towards the middle of the pile. Beginning at the bottom ensures your snow is compressed enough to stay erect once hollowed. Shovel the ceiling of your snow fort out at a rising slant from the entrance to give the appearance of your entrance transitioning into a large room. Leave the walls of your fort several inches thick in snow to help reduce the chance of cave-ins due to structurally weak walls.  This step, along with the previous, is subjective to the breadth of your original base pile.

Step 4: Creating Fence Walls

If Step 3 was all the work in the project, then Step 4 is all the fun.  There are several directions you can take your new snow fort based on your intentions for using it. As a child, snow forts were often the home base in neighborhood snow ball fights. If this is the case for you then building outside fence walls would increase your enjoyment and use of your fort. Remember that excess snow you just shoveled out of the fort to make it hollow? Start piling that in two parallel lines extending from the door to a length you desire. Do not make the outside fence walls any taller than half the height of your fort or they will be less distinguishable.  As was the case while shoveling your original base snow pile, be sure to compress the snow in your fence walls so a window can be shaped out of the face of the wall without collapse.

Step 5: Creating Windows

There are other methods you can follow to make your snow fort more aesthetically pleasing such as creating a window inside your fort.  This can be a bit of a risk because you have to carve the window from one of the walls of your fort and that can weaken the structure so much that you will have a cave-in on your hands. You can accomplish the creation of a window by using the handle of a shovel to etch the dimensions of your window into a wall of your fort. I suggest something more precise than a shovel handle, such as a broom handle, so you can be more delicate with the process. When you start removing the snow for the window, do so slowly. A mistake at this stage could mean starting over.

Step 6: Other Decorations and New Directions

Another very simple task you should do to improve the appearance of your fort is to use the back side of your shovel to smooth all the surfaces of the fort, and give the fort a proper name. Smoothing the walls, floors, fences, etc of the fort give it a finished appearance to set yours apart from all the rest. Adding your name to a sign outside the fort, or etching the its name in the snow surrounding your fort is similar to adding your signature at the top of a page. Since this is your creation, you had better give it a name!

The method you go about creating your snow fort is completely subjective to your situation. If the hollowing method is not the easiest route available to you (due to the snow melting), then you can also employ the snow brick method of building one. In this style of fort, the walls are created by stacking approximately even sized piles (or "bricks") of compacted snow on top of each other in a staggered pattern. The same steps and techniques used to make the hollowed snow fort can also be applied to the snow brick method with the exception of the roof.  Since this style of fort is not uniform up its walls, its very difficult to build a roof that will not cave-in with this style. That is why with this method it is not recommended you attempt to add a roof, and leave this fort more as a bunker than an enclosed base.