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#934 The ephemeral snow art of Simon Beck

By Cathryn Wellner / February 5, 2014
Simon Beck's Snow Art

Simon Beck’s Snow Art from Lac Marlou, 2012; photo by Simon Beck

When he is at home in Berkshire, England, Simon Beck makes orienteering maps. But it is what he does in the French Alps, where he translates that skill into snow art, that has caught the world’s attention. He plots out enormous designs, dons snowshoes and then creates stunning works that can only be viewed from far above.

The precision of his pieces is astonishing. And although they last no longer than the next snowfall or spring melt, they are captured on camera for all of us to see. Starting with a graph, he plots each path he must take from a central point. His ideal palette is the flat surface of a frozen lake, with a covering of about nine inches of powdery snow. Step by step he snowshoes his way along the circles, spirals, straight lines and curves that are to become massive designs on snow. They take anywhere from a few hours to a long day to complete, though most require 8 to 10 hours. Some are as large as 10 soccer fields, while most are closer to 3.

He shared his process on his Facebook page. Check out the photo album to find a series of photographs showing preliminary graphs and the various stages for completing a piece of snow art. When he moves from paper to snow, he uses pace counting or a measuring tape to figure out exactly how many steps he needs to take for each stage of the design.

He told the UK’s Daily Mail:

The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise.

Gradually, the reason has become photographing them…

Beck photographs them from above, by whatever means he can, via ski lift, helicopter or a climb. He posts the photographs on his Facebook page, with an invitation for anyone to download the pictures to illustrate articles or blog posts. (Thanks for that, Simon Beck.)

Like chalk artists, ice sculptors and anyone else who creates ephemeral art, Beck is moved by a passion many would find hard to understand. Now that he has a high quality camera and can make higher-resolution photographs, he hopes to start recouping his investment. I wish him much success, as I do anyone who steps off the beaten path and pursues some inner calling. He gives me hope.

Below the videos are two more examples of Beck’s work. See his Facebook page for many others.

My thanks to Holly Hruschak for the link to an illustrated post on ViralNova.http://www.viralnova.com/simon-beck-snow-art/

The top video is an interview with Beck, made by Evian. The bottom is an homage by Isa Delfau, capturing a glimpse of the many hours it takes for Beck to complete his works.

Club Med Lake 2013; photo by Simon Beck

Club Med Lake 2013; photo by Simon Beck

Simon Beck's Snow Art

Lac des Combes 2011; photo by Simon Beck


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