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What Is a Snow Sculpture?

A.M. Boyle
A.M. Boyle

A snow sculpture is a statue or figure of some sort carved from a mound of snow. They can be simple creations or detailed monuments depending upon the skill level and patience of the sculptor. Normally, because of the nature of the medium, snow sculpting is an outdoor activity and is a form of artistic expression enjoyed by many during the winter months.

Many people who have grown up in colder climates are familiar with the joy of building snowmen. Snow sculpturing takes snowman building to a whole new level. Basically, artists carve a snow sculpture out of a mound of snow that can be anywhere from 5 to 12 feet (approximately 1.5 to 3.7 meters) tall. The snow pile needs to be packed firmly. Artists form the figure using a variety of tools, such as shovels, ice picks, and garden spades.

Ice picks are used to make snow sculptures.
Ice picks are used to make snow sculptures.

While a snow sculpture can be made from either manufactured or natural snow, in order for an artist to successfully scrape out the figure, he or she needs the right kind of snow. Soft, powdery snow will not do because it does not pack firmly enough. Instead, sculptors prefer a heavy, wet snow. If Mother Nature will not accommodate the artists, they can modify it and make it into good packing snow by wetting it down with a spray of water.

Snow sculptures can be as simple as a classic snowman.
Snow sculptures can be as simple as a classic snowman.

Even though snow is white, the snow sculpture doesn’t have to be. Some sculptors prefer to give their artwork a splash of color. To do this, they normally mix food coloring with water in a spray bottle and mist the various areas of the snow sculpture with the desired colors. Still, many true snow artists prefer to keep their creations a natural white.

The art of snow sculpting is very popular in both the U.S. and Canada. In fact, both places host several well-known snow sculpting events throughout the winter months, including both local and international competitions. These events are generally held in conjunction with winter festivals and are usually very well attended, drawing crowds from all over, not only to create the sculptures but to enjoy and admire the outdoor art gallery.

Given the nature of snow, a snow sculpture is only a temporary creation. Naturally, once the weather warms and the sun shines, the sculpture will melt. An artist can extend the life of his or her snow sculpture by spraying it with a light shower of water. This will give the sculpture a thin glaze of ice that will help to preserve its shape and stand up to the sun just a little longer. Still, the sculpture is destined to melt, and perhaps its transitory nature is part of its beauty.

Although many snow sculptures are quite elaborate, encompassing intricate detail worthy of a museum, not all creations have to be that sophisticated. Many people enjoy making smaller-scale sculptures in their own front yards, creating simple shapes and figures. It is a great family activity that both children and adults can enjoy together.

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    • Ice picks are used to make snow sculptures.
      By: Knartz
      Ice picks are used to make snow sculptures.
    • Snow sculptures can be as simple as a classic snowman.
      By: Gajus
      Snow sculptures can be as simple as a classic snowman.