Young artists from the Sundog carving program have turned from wood to snow.

Until Feb. 23, you can see them carving six eight-foot square blocks of snow at Shipyards Park.

They will not be carving alone. Eight professional snow carving teams from across Canada and the United States started carving at midnight on Feb. 20 to be ready for judging on the 23rd. As they work, they will also mentor the Sundog carvers.

The process began in December, when Donald Watt and Gisli Balzer taught the young carvers how to build maquettes. These small scale models help a sculptor figure out and improve design elements, both practical and aesthetic.

Six teams of carvers built maquettes out of plasticine or wood. Watt and Balzar are helping the young carvers “scale up” the maquettes onto the blocks of snow.

All of their designs use the West Coast style of imagery you might be familiar with from Sundog’s output over the past four years.

Sundog student Duran Henry’s group plans to base their snow sculpture on his wooden mask. The mask depicts a raven’s face on top of a man’s face. The imagery grows from Henry’s understanding of the story of how Raven brought life to the world.

Brian James Francis and Naomi Crey will be carving a whale coming up for air, with his tail out of the water and a fish in its mouth.

Francis figures in some ways carving snow will be easier than wood: “Like cutting butter.” But the challenge will be doing it “real slow,” he says.

“It’s not like you can erase and do it over.”

Calvin Morberg’s group will carve a killer whale jumping out of the water.

Morberg has just returned from Ottawa. With Will Callaghan and Angel Hall, he attended Winterlude in the capital, demonstrating wood carving and representing emerging Yukon carvers.

They also got to see their teachers in action. Team Yukon — consisting of Watt, Balzar and Mike Lane — were carving at Winterlude at the same time.

Undertaking its usual Rendezvous responsibilities, the team will create its customary enormous carving at the end of Main Street as well as helping coordinate the international snow sculpture event in Shipyards Park.

“As soon as they’re done their sculpture, they’ll be down there helping the others,” says Sheila Dodd of the City of Whitehorse.

Dodd is delighted with the new Shipyards location for the snow-sculpting Rendezvous events. It makes creating the 10x10x12 foot blocks of snow much easier.

At Shipyards Park, they can work around the snow removal staff’s normal snow-clearing responsibilities and, with any luck, no one will have to stay awake all night.

The additional space at Shipyards Park also allows the Sundog participation.

Dodd also observes that the teams often work in the afternoon and evening and the new Shipyards building will be useful for carvers or viewers needing to warm up or use the washroom.

Saturday night, Feb. 23, creates a kind of crescendo for Dodd. The sculptors “polish their sculptures just like you’d polish a table.” Teams often work late, cramming for the morning judging.

On a more permanent note, in case you didn’t know already, the Sundog Carving Studio is open to visitors from 9:30 to 4:30, Monday to Friday, at 4th and Strickland. You can view and purchase pieces from the artists themselves that won’t melt away.