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SnowDays 2021 snow sculptures
Will Lambert
The Real Banff / Published: Tue, 01/26/2021 - 20:04

SnowDays: Inspiration from the Natural World

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When you’re shaping a natural canvas into art, it’s no surprise that your art is in turn inspired by nature. No one knows this better than the snow sculptors at work around Banff for this year’s SnowDays. These artists have created masterpieces from their mind’s eye, transforming giant blocks of snow into towering sculptures around the streets of Banff.

The sculptors will tell you themselves that inspiration comes easily in a place like Banff National Park. From rugged edges to finely polished details, these extraordinary snow sculptures represent the strong spirit and untameable character of the Canadian Rockies. And in this unique year, they’re drawing on the resilience that abounds in the mountains. 

Wisdom from Wildlife

For living proof of resiliency in the wild, you need look no further than the four-legged residents of the park. They adapt to all seasons and conditions that the Rockies offer with elegance and ingenuity. 

Capturing the spirit of wildlife in snow sculptures has long been a favourite challenge for sculptor David Ducharme. He and his Snowball Effect team member channelled their past experience in sculpting animals to craft their Drifting Broncos sculpture in Banff Avenue Square. “If we can show our reverence for these animals, their power and grace…that’s all we hope to do,” says Ducharme. 

SnowDays 2021 - Drifting Broncos
Will Lambert
Drifting Broncos by Snowball Effect

In sculpting the mountain goats of Peek at the Peak, artist Peter Vogelaar says he was drawn to their strong character and contradictory agility. Mountains goats are incredibly nimble, despite their large size, and they scamper across rail-thin ridgelines without a thought. The Canuckleheads have portrayed this unmatched dexterity in their snow-sculpted goat perched 16 feet above the ground.

SnowDays 2021 - Peek at the Peak, artist Peter Vogelaar
Samantha Reid
Peek at the Peak by Canuckleheads

Birds of flight are similarly featured in two other snow sculptures this year; Chicka Dee Dee Dee by Voyager Art and Carving Air by Schlichtings. Brian McArthur of Voyager Art says his team admires the perpetually cheerful spirit of chickadees, even when facing up against cold winter weather.

SnowDays 2021 - Chicka Dee Dee Dee - artist Voyager Art
Samantha Reid
Chicka Dee Dee Dee by Voyager Art
As for Carving Air, Carl Schlichting describes his team’s sculpture as “a celebration of stunning aerial acrobatics that swallows are able to achieve…swooping, soaring, twisting, darting, diving and then coming in to perch at incredible speed.”

SnowDays 2021 - Carving Air - Carl Schlichting - Photographer Will Lambert
Will Lambert
Carving Air by team Schlichtings

Inspired by the Elements

Of their sculpture Kindling Harmony over on Bear Street, Vogelaar says his team felt drawn to depict the art of creating warmth. He enjoys the irony of sculpting this scene from frozen flakes of snow and considers this material to be one of the most beautiful of them all. Viewers lucky enough to explore the sculptures and the accompanying Hot Chocolate Trail below falling snowflakes would surely agree.

SnowDays 2021 - Kindling Harmony, artist Peter Vogelaar
Will Lambert
Kindling Harmony by Canuckleheads
This year’s snow sculptures capture both the earthly and the human side of resilience. In Breathe by team Schlichtings, the sculptors pay homage to the recent exhibit of the same name just a few steps away at Banff’s Whyte Museum. The team has created a snowy replica of artist Towanna Miller-Johnson’s stunning beaded mask, and the result is remarkably poignant. 

The textures of the natural world are present throughout the seven sculptures around Banff, from a billy goat’s shaggy coat to the delicate twigs of a pine branch. Given that the sculptors’ studio is the great outdoors, it’s easy to see where their designs are firmly rooted. 

“It is such a gorgeous place to work in…the play of light on spectacular vistas is delightfully distracting,” says Schlichting. “Sunshine and clear blue skies are common and enhance the beauty of snow forms we are trying to create.”

SnowDays 2021 Breathe by Team Schlichtings
Will Lambert
Breathe by Team Schlichtings

Playing by Mother Nature’s Rules

Working with a natural medium that changes entirely in response to temperature and sunshine is bound to teach you a few lessons about resiliency. The sculptors have learned from experience that there’s no sense in getting caught up in the little things. Just like in the wild, conditions change and it’s up to us to change along with them. 

McArthur considers the impermanent nature of snow sculpting to be liberating. “You can make a large sculpture quickly,” he explains, “and while it has temporary life that is also great as it will return back to nature and the river after it is finished.”

Despite the hours that go into the details of sculpting snow, Ducharme agrees that it’s important to step back and simply enjoy the process of creativity. “Working with snow nurtures flexibility and adaptability,” he says. “This is what we need more of in life in general, so it’s easy to apply it here.”

SnowDays 2021 - Snow Pallette, artist Brian McArthur
Will Lambert
Snow Pallette by Voyager Art

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