Saskatchewan Examiner

Snow sculptors in Saskatoon embrace the Norwegian gnome tradition

Snow sculptors in Saskatoon follow the Norwegian gnome tradition

Key takeaways:

  • When Theressa Wright was clearing snow from her front yard, she realized she could only build something tall and skinny.
  • Wright has been competitively carving snow for 27 years, with her husband Terry Ouellette joining her for the last decade and a half.

Theressa Wright was scraping the snow in her front yard when she realized she could only build something tall and skinny.

The Christmas tradition of Norwegian gnomes seemed appropriate.

“When we’re all bundled up and outside carving, you really can’t tell who’s who other than, you know, you’re all bundled up, and you’ve got different hats,” she explained over the phone to CTV News.

“So that’s where it came from, that we’re like snow gnomes when we’re carving outside. In some ways, it’s a self-portrait.”

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Wright has been competitively carving snow for 27 years, with her husband Terry Ouellette joining her for the last decade and a half.

“I tried packing it, throwing it in, stopping it, building it up by myself, and I got it off to a crooked start,” Wright said of the gnomes.

“So we ended up with a crooked one. The next day, my husband came out and helped me pack it in a much more straightway. But it’s just a matter of dumping snow into a mould to soften it, condense it, and pack it so it can stand up. It’s also quite time-consuming. It’s like stomping grapes, but instead of grapes, you’re stomping snow.”

They worked for hours outside in subzero temperatures, only stopping when the temperature dropped to -32 C.

“You have to work in layers and keep moving, or you will freeze.”

When they compete, they must carve for up to 10 hours without stopping, regardless of whether the temperature is above zero or the wind chill is -45 or -50. Layering is essential, according to Ouellette.

“We usually take three, four, or five pairs of mittens and a couple of toques when we travel or do a carving, and you’re changing them out so they can dry.”

They’ll compete in the World Snow Sculpting Championship in Minnesota in two weeks with a creation inspired by the teddy bear that made headlines in Saskatoon last year.

The scene is described in their entry proposal as a “For family and friends, a warm, welcoming group hug. The teddy bear’s big embrace depicts the feeling of being safe and comforted. A warm hug will brighten everyone’s day for a tool snow carving competition.”

“It’s nice to meet other people who enjoy being outside, and it’s nice to complete a sculpture in a reasonable amount of time that is both large and monumental and visible to a large number of people. Then there’s the element of going to different places, “Wright remarked.

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