I have owned a cabin in Idaho with my family for a long time. The winters here can sometimes be crazy so I wondered how dangerous it really is to be snowed in at a cabin. I did some research, and this is what I found.
So, is it dangerous being snowed in at a cabin? It can be dangerous if the power goes out for an extended period of time and there is no heat source. The biggest risk of being snowed in is hypothermia, the next is a shortage of food. However, if you are well prepared, you should not fear being snowed in.
TV shows and movies may have created some concern and hysteria when it comes to being stuck inside a cabin in the middle of winter. Even though this situation is not ideal, it is still possible to be safe and even have fun while waiting for the sun to shine.
Potential Dangers of Being Snowed In
Most of the time, being snowed in is not much of risk. However, if you get stuck in a blizzard that lasts for days, you could be in some trouble.
I bet one of the first things that you thought of while being snowed in is being attacked by a wild animal or being haunted by some terrible spirit. However, these are just ghost tales. The things that you will threaten you are more basic and easier to handle.
One of the biggest risks when being snowed in at a cabin is hypothermia.
Hypothermia is defined as “a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C).” by the Mayoclinic.
The risk of hypothermia increases when the electricity goes out for an extended period of time. The way to treat hypothermia is to get the person suffering warmed up.
Another risk is a shortage of food or food going bad. If the refrigerator does not work for an extend period of time, meat and other food can become too dangerous to eat. A simple solution is to gather snow from the outside or to place food outside of the cabin in the snow to keep cold.
It is also important in regards to food to distribute evenly and make sure it can last for a long period of time. If you are stuck in the cabin for an indefinite period of time, it is imperative to make your supplies last for as long as possible.
Another possible danger could be a collapsing roof. If it truly has snowed so much that you can’t get out, the weight of the snow on the roof could pose a risk. Snow may sometimes seem light and airy, but it can really add a lot of pressure to a structure. The best thing to do is to make sure the structure you are is stable beforehand.
If the roof seems to be sagging or there are a lot of leaks and creeks, you might need to check from the outside to see how the roof is doing. You might even be able to knock off some snow from the outside. Most structures will be able to withstand a wicked snow storm anyway.
Steps to Take if you are Snowed In
These risks listed above might make you think twice about the safety of withstanding a snowstorm, but most of the time, it won’t be that bad. One of the best tips of advice I can give you is to stay in a structure. The most potential for bad things to happen is when you wander off in a snowstorm.
Snowed in? One of the first things you need to do is to stay warm. You will want to bundle up. Take blankets to block the drafts in the cabin.
Use blankets or pillows to seal the doors. Drape blankets over the windows. This will prevent as much cold as possible from coming in and should help retain heat. If the power is still on, plug in a heater, an electric blanket, anything to keep the place warm for as long as possible.
If you have a wood-burning stove, use that too.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, keep a small fire going. This will keep you warm and prevent the chimney from freezing over. It will also send smoke out if the storm gets really bad and let searchers know where you are.
Still cold? Body heat can be powerful. Crawl into a sleeping bag when you feel that your body temperature is dropping. If you have hand-warmers use them. If you are in a group of people, make sure everyone is doing alright. Two people in a sleeping bag will generate even more heat.
Just be careful to not use all your resources at once.
Distribute food in small portions if the storm looks like it is going to last and you don’t know when a snowplow will be on its way. Hunger does not feel great, but you can last a long time with minimal food.
Bring your phone. This is the easiest way to reach out to someone outside for help. You will lose signal during the storm so turn it off. Save your phone battery for when you are actually able to contact someone. Conserve your battery life for a time you can actually use it.
These steps may seem simple, but can save your life. They can also make the time spent snowed in much more enjoyable and less frightening.
Prepare before your Trip
Preparation is always the best policy. It’s not the Boy Scout motto for nothing, right? If you are headed up to a cabin the winter, it is always better to over-prepare.
The best things to pack with you are:
- Flashlights (with extra batteries)
- Blankets and sleeping bags
- Food – perishable and non-perishable
- A kerosene, butane, or propane heater – basically a heater that does not need to be plugged in
- Hand warmers and foot warmers
- Extra Socks
These things will help you if you need to go into survival mode.
If it is your cabin that you are headed up to, a great thing to do is to buy a generator and leave it up there. This generator will help you have electricity if the power goes out. You might even already have a generator if your cabin is secluded enough.
Generators are quite the investment but they really come in handy and can save you money in the long run. It also is great comfort when it comes to situations such as being snowed in. This one has an excellent rating and is the number one best seller on Amazon.
Getting snowed in is not usually life-threatening. Take the precautions necessary of course, but do not stress or overact if you are in this situation. Most of the time just bring books, board games, and snow pants. Play a little. Enjoy the snow, especially if the power is up and running.
Being snowed in does not mean you at risk. Sometimes it just means that your car is a little too stuck for the time being, or the roads are too icy. These situations are not dangerous and just require some patience.
How long can you survive in a blizzard? Without shelter, you can only survive for about 3 hours when it is below freezing. The moisture and the wind will lower your body temperature. This is why it is important to stay put if you get snowed in at a cabin, house, or even your car.
What should you do if you are caught in a snowstorm? The first thing you should do is find shelter, stay dry, and stay out of the wind. Cover up any drafts in the room. It is also good to know the signs of hypothermia so you can protect yourself and watch out for others.
Is it safe to use a cabin in the winter? It is safe if the cabin you are going to is well-structured and you are prepared. It is even safer if you let someone know where you will be in case there is a blizzard and no one can get ahold of you.