Sculptors set to mold snow for Winter Carnival

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A snow sculpture from the 1978 Winter Carnival. (Pilot file photo)

Giant cylinders of snow will become the medium for artistic expression during this weekend’s Snow Sculpture Symposium at Depot Park.

The city of Whitefish is hosting the event during the Whitefish Winter Carnival and as of last week had three teams set to participate.

Carla Belski, community services coordinator for the Whitefish Parks and Recreation Department, said the snow sculpture event is returning after a several year hiatus from the Winter Carnival. For many years the event was coordinated as a competition by art enthusiasts from Flathead Valley Community College and held in the parking lot of the Super 1, she noted.

“We’re excited to coordinate this neat event happening simultaneous with Winter Carnival,” Belski said. “Depot Park is a great location and we hope we can make it a tradition.”

Belski said more than 3,000 people have shown interest in the event on social media. However, teams to participate don’t total the original goal of nine, with two to four members in each team.

However, those participating bring some high level of experience to the symposium.

Scott Thompson, of Alaska, will lead a team. Thompson has won the Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship four times and the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition twice.

Paul Coats of Whitefish, who participated in the past local competition, is also leading a team.

City employees are volunteering to form a third team, Belski said, unless someone comes forward before the event begins and then they’ll turn over their snow mound.

In addition to creating his own sculpture, Thompson has volunteered to give a training and safety session to those participating. The tutorial begins at 8 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 2.

Each team is provided the block of snow, and the only materials allowed for the sculptures are snow and water. Recommended gear and tools for artists, include shovels or any garden implements with a metal edge, brooms, rakes, a tent or stove to soften the cold snow, and warm clothing for extended outdoor exposure. Gas or electric powered tools are prohibited with the exception of a torch for softening snow.

Belski said the hope is that this first year will be a starting point for larger events in the future with more teams. She noted that though the snow molds are the same as from past competitions, the city is sill learning how best to create the cylinders and the Public Works Department has been bringing in snow to Depot Park to use.

“We’ve had varied snow conditions,” she said. “We’re looking at how far in advance to create the snow cylinders, but it looks like the warmer temperatures will help the snow consolidate and make it pretty good.”

The theme for the symposium will mimic the Winter Carnival theme: “Celebrating 70 years of Big Mountain.”

Starting Friday, Feb. 2 at 8 a.m. teams will begin to create their sculptures, with the goal of completing them by 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 4. The public is encouraged to visit the park during the creation of the sculptures throughout the weekend.

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