Even if the chosen site is close to civilization (say, your very own backyard), treat the shelter construction and overnight as if it were a real tour: start off from the "trailhead" with your pack fully loaded, spend some time hiking or skiing (even if you're just going around in circles), and rely only on what you brought with you in your pack until the following morning. Your overnight must include using your stove to melt enough water for dinner and breakfast, as well as to boil water for dinner.
The MTR1 required reading provides many examples of snow shelters. A Quintze is especially good with shallow snowpacks, as you can shovel snow from the surrounding ground until you have a sufficiently large mound. A typical avalanche rescue shovel is fine, although a model with an optional "hoe" configuration is especially helpful. A "Snowclaw" snow mover can also be a useful complement to a shovel.
But with any design and location you choose, safety is paramount! You should conduct this exercise with a partner (whether a fellow student or someone else). Either way, be sure an outsider knows of your plans, and add some some of marking to the outside of your snow shelter to distinguish it from yet another random mound of snow. Be especially wary of constructing a snow shelter in a parking lot, as heavy machinery has in the past led to deaths both here in the East and out West. Snow shelter deaths can also result from internal collapse and ventilation issues.
Copied below are the official snow shelter construction guidelines from the NSP MTR instructor's manual. In light of all of the preceding and following material, contemplate the following two points both during and after your snow shelter construction and overnight:
- In an actual emergency/unplanned overnight situation, would you have the time, strength, and energy to construct your particular snow shelter?
- For a planned overnight, is the snow shelter's additional time, effort, and gear (e.g., extra dry clothes, Snowclaw, etc.) preferable to just bringing a lightweight tent and slightly warmer (and hence heavier) sleeping bag?
"Snow caves, snow shelters, and igloos must be placed on terrain that is safe and conducive to their construction. There must be no avalanche danger on the slope used or from adjacent slopes. Shelters should be in areas off the trails and away from the public."
"The minimum manpower for each snow shelter is two builders. The builders should be appropriately dressed in moistureresistant clothing to prevent the likelihood of getting wet during construction. Changes of clothing should be available in the event the builders become wet."
"One person should be standing by and must be able to immediately extricate the builder(s) in the event the shelter collapses during construction."
"The shelter needs to be built in snow that can support construction or has beenpreviously compacted. The shelter shouldbe sturdy and roomy enough to safely house the occupants and their equipment. It should have adequate space for movement and have sufficient ventilation."
"The shelter’s location must be prominently marked. This will ensure the occupants will be able to locate the snow shelter after night exercises, additional snowfall, and inclement weather. It also will prevent others from inadvertently walking on the roof of a shelter and collapsing it."
"At the end of the outdoor exercises, snow shelters should be collapsed and the area filled in."