24 Nov Round Up: Snow Sculpture
Driggs, Idaho has always been a little eclectic and esoteric, a place called home by extreme athletes, artists, and Mormon families who migrated to the valley. In a full showing of this sense of identity, Teton Valley melds long winters and bone-rattling temperatures with its thriving arts and culture scene in an annual snow-sculpting tradition. For 12 years running, Snowscapes has filled the downtown Driggs Plaza with sculpting teams working with 35 tons of snow, transforming the temperamental medium into dragons, Alpine scenes, and native wildlife.
This year’s event is slated for mid January, with preparations beginning January 8. Sculpting teams will have from January 15 through 2 p.m. on January 19 to create their art, after which the annual Snow Ball dance will take place starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Driggs City Building. On January 20 Snowscapes will culminate with an awards ceremony for best sculpture, snow-inspired kids activities, and a Quick Sculpt Competition, all outdoors on Driggs Plaza.
The sculpting teams are comprised of approximately 35 professional sculptors from around the region and about 70 area high school students. They weather blizzards, subzero temps, and brilliant sunshine as they chisel, carve, and smooth their creations in just over four days. And to help accommodate the race against the bell, event organizers borrow Teton County Search and Rescue’s spotlight so the teams can work into the night.
For Tye Tilt, a participant and supporter since the event’s founding, the best part is encouraging new people to come out and partake, especially kids. After 12 years carving on teams — as well as volunteering and attending snow-sculpting competitions in McCall, Idaho and Breckenridge, Colorado — Tilt can hardly claim he’s a novice. “I don’t have massive technical artistic talent,” he says humbly. “I still don’t consider myself a great carver, but anybody that can hold a shovel and has a pair of gloves can be useful.” According to Tilt, the art form is great for all ages and is something families can do together.
Aside from the quantum physics required to design a snow sculpture and test if theories of tunneling and avalanche training will hold up to the application of snow art, much of the exhibition comes down to having the right tools. “Some [teams] are melting and soldering things to create swords,” says Lisa Simmons, Downtown Driggs Association’s executive director, adding that artists also use curry comb brushes and kitchen tools they find at the thrift store.
“It’s so cool; it grows out of nothing, and then it just melts back into the earth,” Simmons says, adding that weather plays a significant role in the artistic outcome of the event. “There’s an optimal temperature. I was worried last year because, after the forms were filled, the temps heated up.” But, Simmons says last year wasn’t warm enough to melt sculptures; instead, the mild warming created an icy layer on the creations, keeping them solid.
At the end of the carving, visitors have an opportunity to vote on their favorite one. Last year’s first-place winner was created by Team Snowbunny — represented by Richard Brown, Cynthia Stoetzer, Marlene Wusinich, and husband-and-wife duo Ralph Mossman and Mary Mullaney (local glass artists who founded the event). The team’s creation, Who’s Caught?, was a visual exploration of a regionally inspired philosophy: the struggle to determine who is being caught — the fish or the angler.
Sculptures remain in place as long as weather allows, and Driggs Public Works removes them when they become a potential fall hazard.
For more information about 2024 Driggs Snowscapes, visit downtowndriggs.org.