Mount Sima’s snow guns, ready for action at Shipyards Park

PHOTO: Manu Keggenhoff

Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous has partnered with Air North, the City of Whitehorse, Days Inn, Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and Shaw Direct to keep a favourite Rendezvous event. Fourteen years ago Whitehorse artist Don Watts, an internationally-renowned snow carver, started the International Snow Sculpting Challenge and it has been a popular Rendezvous event ever since.

He retired from the event last year and this year Rendezvous organisers made partnerships to ensure the event takes place. However, this year it’s a little different.

“We decided to step away from the competition aspect, as we wanted to display art,” said Dave Blottner, executive director of Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.

“It’s an exhibition; bringing art to the North and showcasing the international and local talent.”

Rendezvous will, for the first time, seek out and bring in carvers from all over Canada and the world to work on their art and display for the exhibition. This year there are some countries that have linked up to create one team. The United States and China have paired together, and Germany and the United Kingdom have paired together. We will also have a team from Spain, Winnipeg, Calgary and a local team from Whitehorse.

“This event allows the Yukon to reach out and touch the rest of the world,” Blottner said. “It’s a great knowledge exchange and international exposure.”

Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC), as a first time partnership with Rendezvous, will also have First Nations carvers taking part in the exhibition. KDCC is hosting several sculptures at their location and helping out the entire program this year. Ken Anderson, master artist, sculptor and carver from the Tlingit Council, will be leading a team comprised of members of several Yukon First Nations at the KDCC creating three carvings.

“It’s pretty exciting having a partnership between the two organisations, as many Rendezvous events are held at the KDCC,” said Courtney Wheelton, events and marketing manager for the KDCC. “First Nations designs are unique and reflective of the artist and territory we are in. It’s a great way to showcase talent in the Yukon and our First Nations artists.”

The teams range from a minimum of two to a maximum of five members. Although the theme for Rendezvous this year is “Heat Wave,” there is no set requirement for the snow carvers to adhere to it, as many have been working on designs over the past few months, Blottner said.

Rendezvous’ theme of Heat Wave was certainly evident throughout this winter in Whitehorse, with massive temperature shifts from -40 to +8 throughout winter. “We’ve been working with Mount Sima because of the low snow season in creating snow and the City of Whitehorse has a fun event that the whole community gets involved in and that’s packing the snow to making the snow blocks for the carvers,” Blottner said.

The City of Whitehorse organises the evening of “Snow Stomping” with community volunteers who spend one evening stomping snow into large boxes.

“Normally this event uses snow from secret snow locations around the City,” said Lindsay Agar, Corporate Events Coordinator with the City of Whitehorse. “However, like two years ago, if the snow melts in December, the event needs help creating the snow.”

Mount Sima came to the rescue and helped with creating this year’s snow and without this help the event wouldn’t be possible. The involvement of various organisations such as the City of Whitehorse, Mount Sima and the volunteers who work to prepare this festival is vital to ensure it runs.

“It’s absolutely a community event and we couldn’t do it without the people of Whitehorse,” says Blottner.

The public can sign up to try snow carving on smaller snow blocks in workshops. The carvers can help give instruction or advice and is a unique experience. “Expect to see a lot of carvers from all over the world working day and night,” Blottner said. “Get down and see it!”

The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Snow Carving Exhibition presented by Shaw Direct will be held at two locations. At the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre the First Nation team will be starting to carve snow sculptures earlier than the other teams, as they will be creating three sculptures and will be carving during the day time only. They will be carving at the KDCC from February 15 to 24, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

At Shipyards Park, you can watch the professional teams carving day and night from February 21 to 24. The public can also participate in snow carving on smaller blocks February 23rd and February 24th.

“It’s amazing what they can do in the time they have. Come watch and ask questions to the carvers, they are very friendly.”

The sculptures will stay on exhibit until they melt.

Did You Know?

Mount Sima created 350 cubic metres of snow in 50 hours at Shipyards Park for Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous 2018.

The water pressure from a city hydrant is not enough for good snowmaking, so two high pressure wildland fire Mark 3 pumps are used to create the needed pressure and flow. Up to 50 gal/min of water goes through one pump at cold temperatures and 480 volts at 30 amps is needed for each pump to operate.

Once the snow is created it is left to air out the moisture so the snow packs down without becoming ice. It is then put into large crates and stomped down several times.

The snow stomping event held by the City of Whitehorse in 2017 took 8 hours and more than 40 volunteers to stomp nine boxes of snow blocks.

Each snow block for the professional snow carvers is 8x10x12 feet.

Snow can keep you warm