Snow Sculpture

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

| January/February 1983

  • snow sculpture - building base
    Most of us have learned in the "roll up a big ball of the white stuff and have at it" school of snow sculpting. To make a more durable structure, you'll want to consider building a layered mound with supports buried inside.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • snow sculpture - giant
    An "Old Man of the Snows" dwarfs the two students in his bowl.
    Dartmouth College Photograph Records
  • snow sculpture - juggling clown
    A clown is ready to juggle snowballs in front of Baker Library.
    Dartmouth College Photograph Records
  • snow sculpture - ice serpent
    The art of snow sculpture is well represented at Dartmouth College's Winter Carnival. As its expression suggests, this magnificent dragon is under attack from an icy, unseen St. George.
    Photos courtesy of Dartmouth College Photograph Records
  • now sculpture - sculpting tools - hatchet, chisel, awl, saw
    In addition to snow and below-freezing temperatures, you'll need a model or pattern to work from and a few shaping tools.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • snow sculpture - douse with water
    Fill the base with snow. Wooden posts should be anchored in the snow mass if the sculpture is to be large, or will feature legs or extended limbs. The entire base is doused with water and allowed to freeze, overnight, in temperatures of 15° to 25°F.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • snow sculpture - creating a smaller frame
    A smaller frame is placed on top of the platform, packed full with snow, doused, and frozen as before. In this manner, the sculptor constructs a "step pyramid" to the height of the figure planned.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • snow sculpture - initial shaping with saw
    The rough contours of the design are then hacked or sawed out with a heavy knife, hatchet, or wide-toothed tree saw.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • snow sculpture - finer detail shaping
    Once the rough shape has been formed, the artist uses chisels, knives, picks, and other such tools to carve the details.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • snow sculpture - finished chicken sculpture
    A final spraying with water, followed by an overnight freeze, will smooth the surface and make it glisten.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • snow sculpture - building base
  • snow sculpture - giant
  • snow sculpture - juggling clown
  • snow sculpture - ice serpent
  • now sculpture - sculpting tools - hatchet, chisel, awl, saw
  • snow sculpture - douse with water
  • snow sculpture - creating a smaller frame
  • snow sculpture - initial shaping with saw
  • snow sculpture - finer detail shaping
  • snow sculpture - finished chicken sculpture

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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