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Snow carvers go out of this world on Yellowknife Bay

A snow sculptor from Team Alaska puts detailed touches on tentacles carved from snow
A snow sculptor from Team Alaska puts detailed touches on tentacles carved from snow. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

What do donuts and waffles, a larger-than-life cat claw, and Chris Hatfield have in common? They’re all (gradually) appearing in Yellowknife Bay.

A snow carving contest ahead of Snowking’s Winter Festival sees teams from the Yukon and Alaska take on teams from southern Canada and France – and all were ramping up their carving on Friday afternoon.

Judges will assess the sculptures from 4pm on Saturday before declaring a winner.

“Fifty years ago, man landed on the moon. And six teams landed at the Snowking site to carve snow. Far out,” said Snowking himself of the contest.



Like the design of the castle itself, the theme of this year’s snow carving contest – the sixth to be held – is outer space. The festival as a whole is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

On Friday, in a relatively balmy -11C, Alia Shahab’s carving slowly took shape: beginning with the outline of a sprinkled donut.

“A carton of milk is starting to emerge,” Shahab added, explaining her creative vision. “We have a waffle here. That’s another waffle, lying flat. And there’s a spoon, and there’s going to be milk coming out of the carton, and they’re all kind-of being sucked up into the donut.”

The snow sculpture is called Black Hole, created by Shahab and fellow artists Michel Gignac and Eric Hietmann. The team has carved two snow sculptures previously, both food-related. Their deeper message relates to climate change and food security as the sculpture gets built up, then melts away.



“This type of food – as we can see through snow melting and the weather changing – contributes to warmer temperatures, which is changing our climate, which is changing our food security as well,” said Shahab.

“So these food items that we see on a regular daily basis, we can kind-of see a way that we can be taking them for granted as our food systems change.”

A snow carver begins to fashion a waffle out of snow for a sculpture entitled Black Hole. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

Next door to the donuts are octopus-like tentacles engulfing a small shack. Skagway’s Team Alaska was busy on Friday adding details like nails on the shack roof, alongside intricate designs showing the tentacles enveloping and sucking the shack down.

Some locals had already told carpenter Phillip Clark his monster could be a depiction of Ol’ Slavey, Great Slave Lake’s equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. The idea for the sculpture was birthed over a glass of wine, he said, and did not represent the personal experience of any team member.

“It was sort-of conceived as a guy going fishing and catching more than he bargained for,” said Clark. “It’s an ice fishing shack and giant tentacles coming up and getting little bit of payback.”

If time allows, a partially submerged snow machine may be added to the artwork.

The creation of Team Alaska (Michael Yee, Ken Graham, Phillip Clark, and Peter Luccheti) comes to life behind a scale model. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio



Clark said the team starts with a clay scale model, and a block of snow 10 feet tall and wide. The team then marks and measures the block before beginning to remove excess snow. Once each part of the sculpture emerges, polishing and detail work begins.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield was immortalized, until he melts, in a snow sculpture by Team New Friends (Dawn Detarando, Brian McArthur, and Jodin Pratt). Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

Watching over this creative chaos is Canada’s favourite guy in space, Chris Hadfield.

“[He] is such a great guy. And he was playing guitar in space with the Barenaked Ladies and showing them his floating guitar pick,” said Dawn Detarando, of Team New Friends.

“We just thought it’d be so great in snow and then particularly on the ice here, it’s kind of a space-like feeling.”

The interprovincial team, from Alberta and Manitoba, didn’t stop at a larger-than-life bust of Hadfield in a spacesuit. The team’s sculpture also includes a pig on a spaceship.

“Snow is a beautiful material, when it’s been packed so beautifully like these guys here,” Detarando said. “Snowking did a great job, and his crew. Amazing.”

Team Nomad Art (Friederike Schroth, Fabien Champeval, and Arnaud Roblet from France) and its emerging snow creation. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

Lunar Lander is an ode by Craig Carmichael, James Cook, and Uwe Foehring to the 1969 moon landing. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

Cat lovers will rejoice in Team Big Rock Candy Mountain’s design. The Whitehorse team features Erin Cobett, Josh Lesage, and Jocelyn Lesage. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio