Best conditions for sculpting snow

Weather Wednesday

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MOORHEAD - Scraping the snowflakes away one section at a time you can slowly see the seismic sculptures taking shape, but it all starts with the snow. “Fortunately this year, we had plenty of snow and they were able to skim off some of the some of the untouched pristine stuff from open areas and we were able to auger that into the forms and it actually worked beautifully,” Mike Nelson from North Dakota Snow Sculpting says.

But the snow they use is not a wet sticky snow like you’d use to build a snowman, Nelson says "Wet snow is great for making a snowman and getting it to stick together. It's not always great for packing the forms. You actually want kind of dry, granular crystalline so once it gets compacted, you have a very even grain structure so you can get even strokes with your tools.”

And these guys get creative when it comes to their tools. “Anything that you can physically put your hand on is a tool and if you look in our toolbox, you can see some stuff you might expect going in a toy chest or in your kitchen,” Nelson explains.

But there’s no thermostat outside to control these carving conditions. Nelson says that January has been close to perfect this year, “20 degrees, no wind, and cloudy, you cannot ask for better snow sculpting weather. That’s rare, the wind is usually, it doesn’t hurt the sculpture that much, it's just really hard on the body.”

And while the sun may feel nice to the sculptors, the sculptures don’t fare as well Nelson adds, “The sun beating on the snow will eventually break things down.”


Melting snow is not as much of a concern at Viking Ship Park for Frostival but this team will be representing North Dakota at the National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin next week and they don’t have much snow on the ground right now.

And the lack of snow is becoming more of a problem for the national competition, “Last year they didn't have much snow either. They had to harvest it from the lake. It might not be great, but it's gonna be the same for everybody so it comes with the territory. Get what we get,” Nelson says.

The team is hoping southeastern Wisconsin gets a bit more snow before they travel there to compete again this February after receiving the third place trophy last year. You can help them fund their journey on their Go Fund Me site .

You can check out all of our local snow sculptures at Viking Ship Park this Saturday, January 28th and vote for your favorite between 11am and 2pm. The FROSTIVAL Snow Sculpting winners will be announced at 2:30pm.

Jesse Ritka is a StormTracker meteorologist and holds the AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal of approval.

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