Snow Sculpture

A snowman (or woman) is fine for beginners. Making a bona fide snow sculpture takes more planning and preparation.

| January/February 1983

From the superb Snow Festivals of Sapporo, Japan to the delightful Winter Carnivals at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, half a world away, snow sculptures — carved, and glazed to perfection — delight and inspire millions of people each winter.

The Basics

As you'd imagine, it takes time to create one of these masterpieces, but the process isn't as difficult as you may think. The basic requirements and techniques of construction remain the same whether your design is 3 or 33 feet high.

First of all, you need a model or pattern to work from, an abundant supply of snow, temperatures at or below freezing, and a few shaping tools. You must then find (or build) a snow mound of suitable size from which to carve your figure.

Step by Step

Most of us have learned in the "roll up a big ball of the white stuff and have at it" school of snow sculpting, but to make a durable structure — if anything made of frozen water can be called durable — of any real size, you'll want to consider building a layered mound with supports buried inside.

This technique begins with the construction of a simple wooden frame into which snow is tightly packed. If the sculpture is to be large, or will feature legs or extended limbs, wooden posts should be anchored in the snow mass. The entire base is doused with water and allowed to freeze, overnight, in temperatures of 15° to 25°F.

After that, a smaller frame is placed on top of the platform, packed full with snow, doused, and frozen as before. In this manner a "step pyramid" is constructed to the height of the figure planned.

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