It’s no snowman
Participating in the 2008 Wintersculpt snow-sculpting competition was a challenge. Although I had 48 hours to finish the sculpture before the judging took place, I had no idea where and how to start it. Aside from building a snowman, I had no experience in this medium.
It is not surprising that my expectations of snow-sculpting were quite naive ” this was no snowman. What I was dealing with was an 8-by-8-foot cube of compressed snow.
On Jan. 10, I found myself standing atop a snow cube facing Cooper Avenue with hopes I would discover a concrete plan of action. The experience that followed could be compared to a baby’s first steps: physically challenging and filled with mistakes at first, but satisfying and fun once figured out.
So, for those who are wondering (or are considering doing some snow-sculpting of their own), here are the steps and a few tips that might make your experience easier and fun, bypassing the mistakes and the painkillers.
You will need an idea and a sketch of it when you face the snow cube. Draw lines on the snow with any tool that you can get a hold of, dividing the cube into quarters. Taking small steps is helpful; now the block of snow is not as intimidating.
Tip: Can’t see your idea coming to life yet? Sculpt it out of modeling clay, keeping in mind the snow’s properties.
You are not working with that friendly powder you encounter on the slopes ” you definitely must be armed with a chain saw, metal shovels and a lot of patience. Start carving from the top until you see the general shape of the sculpture emerge. Be sure to attract attention from curious pedestrians by showing off your chain-saw skills; I found that people were fascinated by the use of a chain saw. (A certain horror movie from the ’70s could be to blame.)
Tip: Don’t worry about messing up a little. You can always add snow later by using a mixture of water and snow.
Now the fun begins, at least according to my taste. Although some of you might really enjoy working with the chain saw, it is time to put it away and grab smaller tools. Think outside the box; some of the tools have been right under your nose. What about your cheese grater? Or how about that often-ignored garden shovel? Sandpaper and a small garden shovel worked best for me.
Tip: Stay away from fine needles or blade modeling tools you would normally use for clay sculpting; they might be too fine for the snow and thus have no effect whatsoever.
Many unnoticed hours fly by, and finally you are done! And if you thought that shoveling snow was the hardest part of the process, you could be wrong. A lot of artists find it very difficult to let go of their “baby.” The nature of this art form eliminates any way of preserving the creation after completion ” I have never heard of a snow-sculpture museum and doubt that one exists.
So it is given that after completion, your creation is going to be destroyed, either from natural causes or perhaps from some people looking for excitement after the bars close.
Tip: Finish. Take pictures. And just let it go. If it helps to not witness the destruction process, avoid accidental (in reality much desired) glimpses of your sculpture.
Remember, this is a performance art for the eyes of a passers-by. So have fun, make sure to have friends with you (or make new ones), and take tons of pictures.
And if you do decide to participate in Wintersculpt 2009, I will see you there, because despite the intense physical workout, I found the experience to be enjoyable.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.