What’s a quinzee? Now I know

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Ole Netteberg, an effervescent fellow Scandinavian from Minnesota, sat down beside me at a Whitefish Planning Board meeting not long ago and asked if I’d ever heard of a quinzee.

“A what?” I asked.

“A quinzee,” he repeated.

“Can’t say that I have,” I told him.

“It’s a snow cave,” Ole said, pleased to share something that he knew that I didn’t know.

He had built a snow fort in his backyard with his grandkids, and after posting a picture of it, a friend commented, “What a cool quinzee!” Ole had to confess he’d never heard of the word, either.

The word, also spelled quinzhee, is derived from the Athabaskan family of indigenous languages of western North America, according to Wikipedia. Quinzee was a word originally used in places with lots of snow (go figure) in the northern reaches that are now Alaska and the Northwest Territories in Canada. A quinzee can be a surprisingly warm shelter if you’re camping outdoors. If you’re so inclined to build one, the best instructions I found online were in an illustrated article on “The Art of Manliness” website.

Ole and I reminisced about building snow forts as kids, and I’ve been thinking about those days as the snow piles up around our house. Do kids even make snow forts anymore?

The Minnesota blizzards of my youth provided the perfect snow for snow forts. It was so fine and so densely packed that it was easy for us as kids to use our hands to cut blocks and stack them to create four walls.

Sometimes the snow was just right to dig a cave and those were pretty cool, too.

I still remember the entire snow fort village we created when I was in first grade, when each of us made our own custom fort side by side. We’d visit one another, or sometimes would just sit alone in our handmade abodes, the master of our frigid domain.

There was something oddly cozy about spending time in those forts. My oldest brother, who always had a penchant for engineering, made some brilliant snow forts that featured several rooms. We spent hours and hours in the snow.

Even though I still welcome an ample amount of snow for cross-country skiing, I’ll admit it doesn’t hold the same appeal as when I was a kid.

After decades of being snow-shoveling purists, we succumbed this year and bought a snow-blower. And we love it. Well, I should say my husband loves it; he does all the snow-blowing. I simply enjoy the results.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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