Crawling through a tightly packed tunnel, into a thick-walled snow fort, was how my dad spent his childhood winters. In rural Illinois, the snow would swirl up into drifts ten feet high. How I longed for this wintry building opportunity, but when I was young we lived in the high desert. When it snowed, if at all, my parents would encase our tennis shoes in plastic grocery sacks, secured firmly with rubber bands, we would traipse through the flurries, and scoop up whatever stuck to the ground. But the biggest thing we could ever construct was a small-statured snowman.
Meanwhile, people in other, snowy wonderland-type cities were making bigger, better, cleverer sculptures that took a lot of time and effort. Anyone willing to spend that much time and effort on clever snow creations is a nerd. And we like that. If you live anywhere that will be graced with white this winter, consider taking your tykes out to model a masterpiece.
You can find all the regular homages online — Star Wars, Dr. Who, super heroes — and probably even in your neighborhood if you look. But there are actually big festivals for people who love snow and fancy playing with it, where almost anything you can think of is rendered in frosty white. Notable is the Sapporo Snow Festival. It garners more than two million visitors annually and is billed as “one of Japan’s largest winter events.” (Did you know that Japan was a big “winter events” place? Me neither.) Check out some of the big carving hits from the past few years.
Also attracting bemittened nerds from all over is the yearly Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships, in Colorado. Participating teams have four days and nights to carve their snow art from a big block of white 10x10x12 feet.
The winners of 2012 are all a little geeky, and, without a doubt, incredibly well made, impressive looking feats of flakes.
For more than a decade, Stan Wagon, a math professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, has gathered a group of friends and participated in the ISSC. His group’s offering always has something to do with math or technology, such as the 2005 “Knot Divided,” a sculpture based on a Möbius Strip. They have taken home several awards, including getting named US Snow Sculpture of the Year in 2003. See a list of their works, with photos, here.
If it snows where you live* get out and sculpt! Now that your snow vision has been expanded, don’t settle for a regular snowman. Get your kids to help create a rendition of their favorite thing from school or the museum or—you get the idea. And don’t forget your grocery sacks.
* When researching for this article, NWC discovered a snow festival in Naples, FL. We were surprised to learn that it snowed somewhere in Florida. Don’t worry, it doesn’t. Since 1985, Collier County has been creating 100 tons of snow annually, with no help from Mother Nature. Naples has a desire to play in the snow that is so strong the town ships in 1200 blocks of ice and creates snow during 80-degree weather. That’s perhaps the nerdiest thing we’ve heard all day.