A Twist in Time



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In 2002 I designed Team Minnesota's entry in the 12th Annual Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships.

We proposed to carve my design Antichron. This is plainly impossible.

The team with our block of compacted snow, 12 feet tall by 10 feet wide and deep. Captain Stan Wagon is in purple, I'm in blue, and Dan Schwalbe is in yellow wielding his trademark ice auger. Absent from this photo is detail man John Bruning; on the left Rob Nachtwey was the fifth (non-sculpting) member.

I had drawn templates on sheet plastic to help outline the project, and we used the auger to punch out the broadest contours.

Continuing to rough out with sharpened shovels...

On the second night it snowed, which seemed redundant at the time.

In the next couple of days we had some sun, though luckily not enough to endanger the art. Since most of my work is little, it was a thrill to work on an enormous thing!

Championship rules for snow sculpture are "no chainsaws": everything must be done by hand. This makes for a very physical event.

The object was peculiarly difficult for all of us to visualize. I brought some small maquettes, and we mostly worked with a model in one hand and a tool in the other.

As the inside of the piece began to clear out, we were able to punch through with the auger.

But there was still a lot of shoveling ahead of us.

It wasn't really a fashion event. The city of Breckenridge kindly provided all team members with very good parkas, to avoid frozen sculptors during late-night sessions.

As we approached the surface we switched from shovels to Stan's custom-made snow rasps. John Bruning handled a lot of this work, and he was pivotal in the center of the piece, where the rest of us couldn't visualize what should happen.

The night before judging it was almost finished, but we left some supports in place. Our fear was that the central ring of snow, which didn't have much support, would collapse, leaving a pathetic empty arch.

Anxiety rose to a high pitch as we scraped out the final chocks.

But all went well: the piece stood for two weeks, until Breckenridge had to reclaim its parking lot.

Although we only received an honorable mention in the competition, I'm very proud to have worked with Team Minnesota. It was a tough project, the finished piece was magnificent, and I don't know who else could have done it.

Should you wish more documentation of the team's exploits, which include many brilliant mathematical designs, the full record is here.