Sleeping in a Snow Cave

November 04, 2019 1 Comment

ret's feet in a snow cave

Most people spend the day after Christmas holed up inside eating leftovers. Not Ret. 

Our fearless co-founder reminisces about that one (and only!) time he spent the night in a snow cave...

Last year on the night after Christmas, I slept in a snow cave.Like most who end up spending the night in a snow cave, I wasn’t really planning on it. I had trekked up to a little off the grid piece of land I own high up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just west of Boulder, CO. I wanted a chance to disconnect from everything, reconnect with nature, take stock of 2018 and set intentions for 2019. I had brought a tent and wasn’t planning on snow caving it, but it was something I had always wanted to do and it just felt like the right time. 

I used my avalanche shovel to dig out a small 7’ x 3’ x 2’ cave - about the same size as a coffin - in the side of a big snow drift right on the most magical part of my land. It took about 40 minutes. I poked a hole in the top to let the moisture out and the oxygen in. It occurred to me that if it collapsed, I probably wouldn’t emerge, so I jumped on the roof a few times then deemed it structurally sound.


I spent the afternoon busying myself around camp until I remembered I was there to take it easy. The fire helped with that and the cold, which was single digits with a howling wind. With little to do after the sun set behind South Arapahoe Peak, I crawled into the cave around 6pm. With two sleeping pads, two sleeping bags and all my layers on, I was warm . . . initially. The cold woke me later. I thought it was around 5am and was severely disappointed to learn it was only 10pm!

views from ret's snow cave

I laid awake for several hours, snow cascading down from the roof only a few inches above my nose every time I rolled over. The only thing keeping me from bagging it and hiking back in the moonlight was the desire to see the sunrise. I finally drifted off and slept another 7 hours. When I pulled myself out it was a total whiteout. I could barely see my gloved hand in front of my face, much less the sunrise!

So how was it? Not great. Ha! It definitely did, however, give me a greater appreciation for my bed and not having to hug my boots and water to keep them from freezing! I think about that night in the snow cave whenever a little gratitude is needed. I’m glad I did it, but yeah, at the time not awesome!

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1 Response

Rick Kane
Rick Kane

February 07, 2020

“Hello Ned”,
I just read “The Harvest” Issue 24 (my first) and found your articles interesting and informative, obviously well researched. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep & a very light sleeper when I finally do. This topic deserves all the attention it can be given, especially in the current world of 24/7 instant communication. Fortunately I made up my mind a long time ago to not spend my time with a cellphone glued to my nose …………..device addiction…..what it truly is for so many people. I’ll put your other tips for sleep to use!
Also, enjoyed Ret’s story about spending that night in the snow cave…………good for you for doing that and sticking it out. The only way to find mind balance in life is to “disconnect” entirely, and commune with nature, even better if it challenges you. Millions of people around the world never get to do this, nor even realize what this aspect of life is, and how nature is there for free; if they only would make the small effort to add that in. I like what you folks are doing……….thanks!

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