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Above and beyond the snowman for 2010

Torino snow-sculpting winners visit Whistler

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Who: National Snow Sculpture Team

When: Feb. 22-24

Where: Whistler Mountain (near Roundhouse)

After temperatures warmed, the Canadian Snow Sculpture Team was forced to scrap the intricate design they originally intended to compete in the Olympic Games’ Festival of Culture and Art’s snow sculpture competition in Torino, Italy this February.

The three artists – Peter Voglaar, David Ducharme and Carl Schlichting – sat in their hotel room deep in thought, tossing crumpled papers with scribbled possibilities onto the floor until inspiration finally hit.

The result was a 10-tonne block of snow shaped into a monumental mound of crumpled paper, framed by three men holding their chins deep in thought. Their chilly artwork, entitled Mental Block, was awarded first prize as well as the prestigious People’s Choice Award. Sweden placed second and Russia third.

"It was plus-five and raining, so we were not able to do what we did last year, a very delicate snowflake. It was too much of a battle against the weather," Voglaar said. "Last minute off-the-cuff ideas sometimes are better than the original ones. The complexity of the crumpled ball of paper, when translated to a larger scale with the three figures, was quite appealing."

The award-winning Canadian team will create another breathtaking masterpiece on Wednesday, Feb. 22 to Friday, Feb. 24 outside the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain, as part of ongoing Celebration 2010 festivities.

Twelve to 15 tonnes of snow will be chiseled and scraped away.

"We will bring in Olympic symbolism, but tie it more back to Greek columns," Voglaar said. "Snow has such a beautiful quality of marble. We have developed some tools to make fluted marble columns. The piece will all depend on how the strong the snow is, the weather. We might put a figure in. It’s not a contest, so we can probably ask the groomers to bring in another pile of snow."

The process is exciting, with artists chipping away at their snow Mona Lisa for three days, even though he final product will eventually melt away into nothing more than a puddle with the spring sun.

"You realize that nothing is permanent in this world," said Voglaar who first began his creative endeavours as a formally educated watercolour artist.

"I look at ourselves as performance artists. People need to see it for themselves before it is gone… I think people are drawn to it because everyone has made a snowman in their life and to see what level we can push the snow to amazes them. There are no hidden wires."

For almost a decade and a half, Voglaar, who first entered the 1992 B.C. Snow Sculpture Championship at Silver Star, has created upwards of 800 icy works while touring the world – sometimes even with his own snow.

You have to see it to believe it. Visit www.snowsculpture.com for more images of the team’s work or drop by the Roundhouse next week.

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