Dig Your Way to Warmth
Knowing how to make a shelter can save your life in the winter
Photo courtesy of The Cottonwood Institute
Permitted use provided by: Boulder Weekly
The backcountry punishes mistakes fiercely, especially in the winter. But should you find yourself stranded in the woods during the winter, there are ways to ensure you survive the night. Ford Church of the Cottonwood Institute, a nonprofit focused on outdoor education, teaches a winter outdoor survival class at REI in Boulder each year. He offers the following advice should you find yourself in a winter survival situation, just remember: S.T.O.P.
Stop what you’re doing and take some time to calm down.
Think about what you’re doing and what resources you have.
Observe your surroundings. Plan on either building a shelter or getting out of the area. If you need to overnight, your goal is to keep your body temperature high enough to survive the night.
“We talk about survival as a game of 98.6 degrees,” Church says.
You need to build a shelter, he says. Those giant snow caves you see on the TV shows? Church recommends against them.
“One of the reasons I don’t like snow caves is because they can collapse,” Church says. “It depends on having a reliable snow bank or space to dig into. On the east side of the Continental Divide, we just have a really crappy snowpack. You can find snowdrifts to dig into. But the one thing is that you have a tremendous amount of snow on top of you, and if it collapses, especially if you’re by yourself, you’re kind of screwed.”
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