Snow Shelters


Snow Trench

Snow Trenches (1/2 to 2 Hours)

A snow trench is a good, quick, simple shelter. The snow must be deep and soft enough to shovel to an adequate depth. If an ice layer stops shoveling progress, snow blocks can be stacked to increase the effective depth of the shelter. A trench can be a quick or “hasty” shelter in an emergency, or a cavernous, comfortable abode complete with sleeping benches and snow-block A-frame roof.

Trench with Snow-Block Roof

1. Choose a site with soft enough snow for digging. Mark an outline in the surface just slightly wider than your shoulders and 6 to 7 feet long.

Snow Trench

2. Excavate the trench by cutting out blocks with a snow saw and/or by shoveling. (Blocks for the roof can come out of a separate quarry area.) It’s critical that the top of the trench “hole” be slightly wider than shoulder width - just wide enough to work in. If you make the trench too wide, you’ll have a difficult time roofing it with snow blocks. The trench should be waist deep to armpit deep, depending on snow conditions and the desired comfort for the inhabitants. If hard snow or an ice layer prevents you from digging to an adequate depth, build up the depth by making a wall around the excavation with large, stout snow blocks.

3. When the trench is deep enough, sleeping benches can be carved out of the sides. Be careful not to dig too close to the surface or the snow will be too weak to support roof blocks.

4. Roof blocks can be either laid flat across the trench or set up as an A-frame, which gives more head room. Roof blocks leaned A-frame style can be stagge

red to support each successive block. Don’t worry about gaps or holes, as these can be filled in later with snow chunks. Good dimensions for roof blocks are approximately 18" x 5" x 30", but let common sense and snow conditions dictate what size blocks to cut.

5. Finish the shelter by “chinking” the gaps with snow chunks and shoveling loose snow over the roof.

Snow Trench top

Improvise with trench coverings. A trench can be covered with a tent fly, skidoo cowlings and covers, Nansen sleds, sled tanks, plywood, pallets, cardboard, plastic, etc.