Simon Beck, in his late fifties, is a snow artist. He is renowned for his large works. Once he created an artwork the size of 10 soccer fields — that is 108 km. He usually “walks” for hours on his canvas of snow with some twine and a pair of snowshoes, which is essentially his drawing instrument. The artworks are spectacular creations that could be enjoyed only from a higher place — mountain top, chopper or a cable car. And it usually lasts for just a few days.
Once, Simon did an extremely complicated design that took him an entire day. When he woke up the next morning, it had completely disappeared.
Sometimes, his elaborate designs usually last till the next heavy snowfall. “Most people think I am a bit mad and it is a waste of good skiing time,” he says. But most people are not artists. And all artists have a bit of ‘crazy’ in them – the cog that makes their creations astounding.
Simon’s tryst with snow art began in 2004 “as a little fun”. He took a compass, went to the snow covered lake outside his home and plotted five points. He joined them to make a star; filled the triangles and added some circles. The outcome was impressive. But fresh snowfall wiped away the design. So, Simon made another one, this time it was a 10-pointed star.
The next day, he went to a bigger snow-covered lake and attempted a larger design. “It was hard work since the snow was too deep, so I bought myself a pair of snowshoes,” he says. That was how he came to dabble in snow art. It also became his primary form of exercise during winter.
Simon, a native of Southern England, has created more than 150 snow artworks so far; around 30 per year. Most of his art activity takes place in the ski resort of Les Arcs in France
where Simon owns an apartment and spends most of the winter. He usually creates two designs per week. It takes him a day to do an artwork that covers an area of 1.3 hectares. He spends considerable time conceptualising his designs on paper first (“using a protractor and a ruler”); especially if it is commissioned work (he did snow art for Vicomte A and Audi)
Simon draws inspiration from crop circles
or geometrical figures. As a boy, he says, he used to “draw a lot of geometric designs”.
The process of creating snow art is laborious. Simon first sets the design on snow from the centre outwards. He draws straight lines by walking… well, in a straight line, towards a point in the distance using a compass. He draws curves using his judgment. When the primary straight lines and curves have been made, points are measured along them using pace counting for distance measurement. Next, the secondary lines are added by joining the points determined by the above process. Usually, Simon walks the lines three times to get them “really good”. Lastly, the shaded areas are filled in. If all that is confusing to you like it was for me, just relax and enjoy the end product. It’s breathtaking.
Doing snow art is not without risks. There’s an element of danger like getting too tired and falling prey to hypothermia. But for Simon that only adds to its mystique. How about the risk of falling through the ice? “Not yet,” he says. Avalanches? “Yes, they are a danger too.”
Simon hopes for his snow art to spread the message that the mountains and snow are beautiful and worth preserving. However, there is one thing that he abhors about his art: “At the end of a tiring day, I hate changing into ski boots.” However, listening to classical music makes that chore a lil’ better.
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You can see more of his work here