A snow sculpture by Homer artist Gary Lyon and his teammates, Gary Keeton and Less Babcock, both of Anchorage, won third place in the 2006 United States National Snow Sculpting Competition in Shorewood, Wis.
Photo provided by Homer News
Shovel it, plow it and truck it out of sight if you want to.
But to Gary Lyon of Homer and teammates Gary Keeton and Les Babcock, both of Anchorage, snow is the key ingredient in their avenue of self expression: snow sculpting.
The trio’s sculpture, “Shark-Woman Returns,” recently claimed third place in the United States National Snow Sculpting Competition in Shorewood, Wis.
“We had a nice plan, a nice model and we’re pretty happy with our results,” said Lyon. “There were some good pieces there, but I think we did well. We only missed second by four points.”
Fifteen three-member teams competed in Shorewood, coming from such snow-friendly states as Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming, with Lyon, Keeton and Babcock the only Alaska team present. First place in the competition went to a Wisconsin team and second went to a team from Illinois.
“Gary’s team is well known for (its) quality in every criteria,” said Don Berg, executive director of Winterfun, Inc., producer of the competition since 1984. Berg estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 people visited the event.
It also received national coverage with two appearances on NBC’s Today Show. Next year’s competition is scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 3.
In 2005, the creative threesome, who refer to themselves as “The Three Dudes from Alaska,” took first place in snow sculpting competition at the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. Their winning design was a giant polar bear riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, complete with sidecar and passenger.
“We were kind of, shall we say, inspired by an obscure Tlingit Indian tradition,” Lyon said of this year’s design.
As the legend goes, a highborn Tlingit woman was a respected shaman in her village and had the ability to transform herself into a shark. When the people of the village were threatened with starvation, the woman used the hunting qualities of her shark nature to provide the village with fish to eat and sea mammals from which to make clothing. The Three Dudes’ sculpture depicts her returning from the sea, bearing life-saving supplies for her people.
“Structurally it had a good chance in warm weather,” Lyon said of the design’s triangular shape with a broad base that narrowed toward the top. “We did encounter some warm days, but we played the weather pretty good.”
The Alaska team used the cool temperatures of morning to carve, the days’ warmer temperatures to do repairs with warm slushy snow and added fine-detail finish work in the cool of the evening.
Only the country’s best are allowed in the national competition.
“In order to carve snow in that event, you have to have won at your state level,” Lyon said.
The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous and GCI sponsor the Alaska team.
“They get us there, provide the transportation,” Lyon said. “That’s the main impediment for doing some of these things.”
This is not the only competition the Alaska team has entered this year.
“We were invited to submit a proposal for the Turin Winter Olympics snow-carving event,” Lyon said. Entrants’ designs were judged on a point system. “We had a great design, but didn’t have a slick presentation and I think that hurt us.”
Although a Canadian team ultimately won that competition, Lyon and his teammates are undaunted.
“We’re going to try again,” he said of future plans. “And we’re really going to make it spiffy.”
There are other snow sculpting competitions between now and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, however. And The Three Alaska Dudes are already gearing up for the challenge.
“We were invited to go to northern Wisconsin next year,” Lyon said.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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