Introduction: Quinzee Building
Quinzees are much faster & much easier to build than igloos. We built this one just for fun, but we've also made them for sleeping in while winter camping.
Step 1: Find a Spot & Start Shoveling
Where you build your quinzee is pretty important. If we had needed quinzee to sleep in, we would have found a nice sheltered spot, on level land. We opted to build ours on a lake instead. Now, frozen ice conducts heat much better than frozen ground, so sleeping on a lake will draw your body heat away much faster. That really sucks. Not a good choice for over-night campouts, but were just building this one just for fun, so it wasn't an issue.
Where ever you choose to build yours, start by digging out all the snow from the area that your quinzee will sit. Then shovel it all right back. Moving the snow like this will cause it to settle out and give your quinzee a good solid base.
Step 2: Build Up a Big Pile of Snow
Figure out just how big your quinzee needs to be: get everyone that you want to fit in it, to lie down in the area you've just cleared out & make sure everyone fits! Add a foot or two all the way around and that'll be the diameter of your quinzee. Easy.
Keep shoveling on snow until the base of the pile is as big as you need it to be. Once you're done, it'll look pretty conical (perhaps even comical), so feel free to use your shovels to round it into a nice dome shape.
Step 3: Hollow It Out
Now comes the fun part.
After about a half hour or so (depends on the temperature) you can begin hollowing out your snow pile. Find a spot on the down-wind side, and cut in your entrance. Try to keep it as small as possible; just big enough to crawl through. If you make it big to begin with, some idiot (usually yourself) will invariably bump into it with a shovel handle, making it a gapping mess. It's easier to start small & enlarge it later, rather than trying to add snow to make it smaller when it's too big.
This hollowing process takes a lot longer than the piling process, because you can only have one person tunneling at a time. It really helps though, to have someone on the outside removing the snow that gets pushed out of the quinzee.
Step 4: Check the Thickness of the Walls
Keep digging until you can see light coming through the snow of the walls. Snow is translucent enough that even when it is about a foot thick, you'll be able to see sunlight coming through. A thickness of one foot is good for the walls & ceiling. If you want to be more precise about it, you can poke foot-long twigs into the snow pile before you begin to hollow it out. Then, when you dig up to the twigs, you know the quinzee's walls are as thick as you want them to be.
Step 5: Make In-floor Lighting
Now the main reason we chose to build our quinzee on a lake was so that we could give it in-floor lighting. To achieve the desired effect, we built a second quinzee beside our first one, and joined them together with a tunnel to reduce the light reaching it from the entrance. We also kept the walls of the second quinzee thicker to make it even darker inside.
With both quinzees finished, we scraped down to lake ice & cleared a patch on the south side of the second quinzee, creating a window. We also scraped down to lake ice inside the second quinzee. And when I say "we", I really mean Eric. He was our diligent scraper.
To help clear the ice even more I flooded the outside window & the floor of the second quinzee with twenty liters (4.3 gallons) of hot water each.
What was the result of all this extra work? Sunlight shone down through the ice window outside the quinzee & was transmitted up through the ice in the floor, giving off a wonderful green light.
Step 6: Since We're Having So Much Fun, Let's Add a Wall!
While the rest of us were busy hollowing out the two quinzees, Carl was looking for something to do. So he took it upon himself to incorporate into our design, a little wall - complete with seating - to shield us from the wind. This proved to be a most welcome addition when later that night, we built a fire within the walls, and sat around star gazing!
Step 7: Snow Is Very Strong
You can see just how solid the walls of these quinzees are. The next morning our friends' kids clambered all over them with out causing any damage. They'd even support the weight an average adult. Just don't try jumping on them.
Step 8: The Horror... the Horror... (I Loathe the Smell of Quinzees in the Morning)
One last thought: If you ever sleep in a quinzee (or igloo for that matter), I highly recommend that when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is pack up all your gear, shove it out the hole ahead of you, then get out yourself and never go back in again. I once made the mistake of waking up, crawling out of the quinzee to take a pee, and then going back in to pack up. You would not believe the STENCH in there! Granted, perhaps our choice of chili for supper the night before was not the best planning, but I guess that over the course of the night one gets used to the little odors as they accumulate inside the quinzee. Be warned though, stepping out & getting a breath of fresh air in the morning only primes your olfactory sense to receive the full brunt of that special horror on one mind-numbing shot.
Remember, friends don't let friends back into the quinzee in the morning.