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Winter Carnival-Snow Sculptures

Categories: Outdoor Art

There is a lot more to snow sculpting than meets the eye. Our department does quite a few things, but probably one of the most unusual is making giant blocks of snow for the annual Winter Carnival snow sculpture contest.

Not this year, obviously, but some years the primary ingredient can be a little tricky. I’ve heard stories of past years: hauling snow from breadloaf, or moving it from Kohn Field. This year, we merely pushed snow up in piles right out in the quad near where we need them. Didn’t even have to push from any sort of distance.

We start with the box itself. Hopefully you’ll get a feel for the size from the picture-it’s about 7′ tall and about 6′ wide. 4 panels mate together, and then are held by ratchet straps.

We then start some mixing. Yes, with a backhoe. We’re talking quite a bit of snow here. By adding water to a fluffy snow it packs better, like the perfect snowman snow you used to wait for growing up. We blend it until it is about the consistancy of mashed potatoes. Some years this part of the process is miserable, what with the cold and all. This year, the day started in the teens, but quickly warmed into the upper 30′s.

Next, we start adding the snow to the molds. I’ve always been a big fan of the power of hydraulics, never more so than figuring out how to get several yards of snow 8 feet up in the air.

The snow gets placed into the molds in what civil engineers call ‘lifts’, or many individual layers each compacted to remove air pockets. This is a pretty important step. We work about 1′ of snow at a time, and carefully fill the edges of the crate, and use a tamper across the entire surface. Student volunteers are very helpful at this stage-that’s Grace (I never got her last name), she’s the organizer of the competition this year, working with Brian Paquette from our landscape department. And yes, that’s me behind the camera, not avoiding work, I took the next turn.

We fill the boxes to the top, wait for them to set up for a little bit, then take the ratchet straps off and move the contraption to the next location. This year we made 5 snow cubes, as only 5 teams entered. Then, later during winter carnival, the students have at it. We supply shovels, ice scrapers, and other implements of mass destruction.

Here’s one of the teams. Like I said, it was warm that day. This team wouldn’t tell me what they were making at the time. I had no idea the competition was so cut-throat. I came back briefly to campus over the weekend to photograph the finished sculptures, and, like most years, was impressed by the creativity. I never seemed to have progressed past snowman, or feeling expansive occasionally, snow fort.

This was what the team above made, couch and tv set. I’m hoping the antenna for the tv came from the ground, not a live tree.

One of my kids liked the ice cream cone best. It was about 10 degrees outside when taking this picture, so maybe this inspiration came from the middle 50′s of the previous day.

I liked the idea of the mini-Mead Chapel right below the larger version.

We don’t know what this is. Cobra head? Squirrel tail? Modern snow?

This was the winner, both by Grace the judge, and by my kids (not that they had any say in the matter.) Wine and cheese, obviously. Pretty cool.