Four-star accommodation: Sure you could spend hours building a snow shelter, but you’ll get soaked, exhausted and waste valuable daylight hours. Instead bring a legitimate four-season tent, made for supporting snow loads and blocking chilly winds, and set it up in the right place.
Location, location: If there’s lots of snow on the ground you can pitch your tent just about anywhere, but leave-no-trace rules apply in winter too. Set up camp at least 30 metres from lakes and streams and away from summer and winter trails. A stand of trees is a good bet—it will provide shelter from the wind and trap some heat. Avoid depressions and gullies, which fill with cold air overnight, and also lee slopes, where snow will pile up if it snows or gets windy.
Lay the foundation: With skis or snowshoes off, stomp out an area several feet larger than your tent’s footprint. Leave it for an hour—go build your kitchen or start dinner—to allow the snow to settle and firm up. Then shovel it flat. Dig out your vestibule area so you can put your boots on sitting down.
A better kitchen: One of the greatest things about winter camping is that you can design your dream kitchen out of snow. Think sunken floor, benches, windscreen, island, shelves. Don’t skimp—long nights mean you’ll spend plenty of time just hanging out. As with the tent platform, stomp out a design to firm up the snow then shovel it out to flatten it.