Arts and Culture
Food and Wine
People and Places
Science and Nature
Travel and Lodging
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Home » ARTS AND CULTURE » VERMONT » Vermont Snow Sculptors Go National
Alex Dostie of Team Vermont
Vermont Snow Sculptors Go National

By Mike Dunphy | March 13, 2012

At 3PM, the snow sculptors gathered at one end of the Riviera boathouse in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to hear the results of the 2012 United States National Snow Sculpting Competition.

Exhausted by three days of hacking, chiseling, scraping and sawing, their spirits were none the less high. Naturally, everyone’s hopes were up to take home first prize, not just for the recognition and trophy, but for the $3,000 travel allowance to the international competition next year in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Among them were the three anxious members of Team Vermont: Michael Nedell, Brooke Monte, and Alex Dostie.

The Design Sketch

For eight years running, the team had competed in the event, winning second place twice in 2005 and 2007. This year, they felt confident in their design and execution, but would it win over the judges?

Sponsor coordinator, Grace Eckland, stepped out to announce third place, won by an Illinois team called the Kilted Snow Weasels. Next, State Senator Neal Kedzie walked out to announce second place, waving a ticket with the winner’s name as he greeted the crowd.   A fortunate angle revealed it to Nedell — Team Vermont. Their names were called and they stepped forward to receive the silver trophies.

Suddenly, Don Berg and George Hennerly of the chamber of commerce rushed out, took the trophies from their hands, and motioned them off to the side. Turning to the crowd, Hennerly declared, “The real second place winner is… Team Nebraska.”

Nedell’s year flashed before his eyes, all the way back to February 2010, when he first presented his ideas to Monte. “I’d thought about something inside a mesh or lattice for a while. My idea was more a guy inside a hurricane — chaos on the outside, peace on the inside.”

Monte began to bring order to the chaos in sketches computer models. “The design I created,” he remembers, “had elements of both complex and simple and inspired by the geometry in Islamic and Russian architecture.” The result was a hollow, elongated, diamond-latticed dome with bulging hips.

As for the interior, it was Monte’s wife Allisa who suggested a puzzle piece, instantly transforming the sculpture into something that demanded contemplation. They called it “Inner Piece.”

The next step was to build a three-dimensional model. Using an oil-based “clean” clay, which remains soft and malleable (as opposed to water-based clay which hardens), they shaped it over two months into the final design. Their next challenge was obtaining the right equipment to transform the 12-inch model into a 12-foot snow dome. Years of competition had left their tools in poor condition, putting them at a significant disadvantage to other teams. With Dostie’s new custom frame shop, Nedell’s new web design business, and Monte’s new baby, little cash was available.

To raise funds, Dostie suggested Kickstarter, an online fundraising website for creative projects. Setting a goal of $1,000, the three put together a three-minute video to explain their situation.

“Our tools are pretty pathetic.” Nedell says, “The other teams kind of make fun of us.” The appeal worked and the team was able to raise $1,127 in a month, enough to buy a set of Gold Medal JB Prince chisels, wood for the jigs, mending plates, and an auger.

Carving began Wednesday at 10AM. The Team had hardly cut into the 9 x 8-foot cylinder blocks of compressed snow, when they were beset with a major problem. Unusually high temperatures began melting the blocks, reducing some of them up to two feet.

Team Vermont in front of their Winning Sculpture

One stop-gap was to replace it with snow from residual piles. Another was to carve at night in the colder temperatures, then wrap the sculpture with a reflective covering during the day.

As for the game plan, “We set a goal for each night. The first night—shape, second night— halfway hollow, third night—all the way.” Once hallowed, Monte slid through a small detachable section to smooth out the interior and make the pedestal, while Dostie carved the puzzle piece from a block of ice harvested from the lake.

It always a race to the 11AM deadline as sculptors smooth the rough edges, shore up the delicate parts, and make sure the sculptures comply to competition guidelines.

This year, the race was more against the sun, strongest that morning. “We thought [the sculpture] wouldn’t collapse,” Nedell recalls, “because it is basically a dome made of triangles, which are strong shapes.” Unfortunately, it was not strong enough and collapsed 2 hours and 15 minutes later.

At least it had survived the judging. In a twist, contestants become the judges.   Everyone gets a ballot and scores their five favorites according to creativity, technique, and message. Obviously, they cannot vote for their own. Results are tabulated and announced at 3PM in the boathouse.

Stripped of second place, Team Vermont stood stunned until another thought took hold. Why then was their name on the ticket? The riddle was solved a few moments later. “The winner of the 2012 Snow Sculpture Competition is... Team Vermont!”

“It was blur of people saying congratulations,” the Team recalls, “but our first thought was, ‘what are we going to make in Italy?’”

A 30-minute video of the competition can be watched on this video of the DW Show.

More information about the Vermont Snow Sculpting Team can be found at vermontsnows.com.

Share |
ONE is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.