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Fort Defiance: Building a Better Winter Attitude

Fort Defiance: Building a Better Winter Attitude

It is no secret among those who know me well, or are at least within spitting distance of my frequent complaints–I am not a big fan of winter. I wasn’t raised with winter (other than as a remote concept that exploited all of the appealing iconography of the season without any of the gritty, icy underbelly of the season), but nevertheless I live in the Northeastern United States, which is frequently humiliated by all manner of frost and tundra-like conditions for months on end. I am not proud of it, but I usually spend the better part of the season cursing Jack Frost and wishing I could find a sauna to hibernate in. Needless to say, this regrettable attitude has neither served me well nor provided any noteworthy entertainment for my family. So in an effort to make amends with those who know me, as well as the season at hand, I have made a commitment (or sorts) to try to embrace all of the repellent frigidity that is winter.

How am I going to do this? Well, I am still figuring it out. It will probably consist of modifying certain unproductive behaviors (trying to change the weather by shaking my fist at the sky and muttering various rebukes) and taking a general carpe diem attitude towards winter’s adverse conditions. This will no doubt include spending much more time outdoors than I ever imagined, and generally welcoming the cold into my life.

The first thing I may (change that to “I will”) do to embrace my hyperborean surroundings may be to build a snow fort (depending on the projected snow fall over the weekend). For the life of me, I can’t think of anything more wholesome (and somewhat counterintuitive) than getting on your hands and knees, along with your child, and digging yourself deeper into the snow that haunts your every waking moment. A snow fort, for those of you who may be unfamiliar (myself included) is a long loved winter pastime that involves molding surplus snow to create a temporary structure that is able to hold one or more children, and provide for a full afternoon of work and fantasy. There are stories of children (along with the help of abiding parents) building elaborate snow forts that are impressively vertical with a multitude chambers and flourishes like working slides and Mansard roofs.

For us beginners, our snow fort will more likely resemble a snowdrift with a crater in it, and that is ok. I recently stumbled upon step-by-step instructions online as how to go from snow abundance to snow structure (in 30 steps or less). I am posting a link here as a challenge and invitation to all of my wonderful readers who may, or may not, share my ambivalence about winter. If we all get out in the frigid tundra this weekend (weather providing) and truly create something (with or without our children) it will send a message to… well I don’t rightfully know. But it has got to be better than sitting inside and cursing our seasonal lot in life. Think of it as snow forts across America.

How to build a snow fort.

How do you stay sane in winter? Any expert snow fort builders out there willing to share some winter wisdom? Any winter mantras or snow related guidance to impart?

Read more: Children, Family, Outdoor Activities, Parenting at the Crossroads, , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
11:56AM PST on Jan 9, 2014

Going to ask my niece if she and her husband have ever tried this :) Thanks for sharing.

4:29PM PDT on Jun 22, 2013


5:03AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Thanks for the article.

1:50PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Thank you for sharing this with the Care2 Community.
Peace, Tia

7:17PM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

Personally, I'm a spring and fall type of girl.

8:22PM PDT on Jul 23, 2010

I LOVE winter. As long as it is 19 degrees F. or above, I will go hiking. The air is always so fresh and crisp. I grew up with snow, and spent much of my youthful winters making snow forts.

Having grown up with the change of St. Louis seasons and winter in all of its shades and permutations, I never realized how much I had taken it for granted until I was in Germany with my GI husband. Typically, when the men went out on border patrol, etc., many of the wives would stay with one another for the month or so that they were usually gone.

One VERY early winter morning (when I was staying at the apartment of one of the other wives), I was suddenly awakened by screams and yells and laughter. When I open my eyes and in a very groggy state asked my friend, Sue, what all the commotion was about, she yelled with delight, "It's snowing!". I asked her, "You woke me up for THAT?" (It turned out that Sue was from LA, and she had never seen snow before.) She insisted that we go "out in it". For at least an hour, I watched while this otherwise perfectly serious adult woman turned into a little child, as though she were witnessing a great wonder of the world for the very first time.

After some time, I came to realize just how fortunate I had been all of my life and that I had taken so many precious things for granted. I learned a very valuable lesson that day, a lesson that has stayed with me to this day, now 46 years later. Appreciate and savor what you have.

5:41AM PDT on Jul 19, 2010

Thanks for the article.

6:37PM PDT on Apr 2, 2010

I love to walk in the snow-less season and collect recyclables and dangerous garbage (e.g. plastic bags). Anyone have any suggestions for a similarly physical winter project?

6:43PM PST on Mar 11, 2010

I've found that a SAD light and some extra vitamin D helps me in the winter.

7:30PM PST on Mar 8, 2010

I love walking in the snow, going to the Maple Sugar Festivals in my area, feeding the wildlife and watching them. Just getting outside for a few minutes for some fresh air is always nice (except in the really frigid sub-zero weather).

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Good ideas, especially for uptight people, who never seem to relax or appreciate a lovely sight. If…


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