Snow Sculpting Champs

Idaho State Snow Sculpting Champions Jeff Detzer and Myles Hougen

Idaho State Snow Sculpting Champions Jeff Detzer and Myles Hougen

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They may be in their 60s, but Jeff Detzer and Myles Hougen still pull all-nighters. The sixtime winners of the Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championship know it's wise to add final touches in the wee hours before judges assign scores—and before the sun does its damage. The duo won in 2009 with a 12-foot tower of clouds topped by a star, a work they dedicated to their late partner, Norman Smith. They'll defend their title at the McCall Winter Carnival, January 29 to February 7. mccallwintercarnival.com.

Q How do you sculpt snow?
A [JD] It comes in five-by-five-by-ninefoot blocks, like huge sugar cubes made of compacted snow. [MH] Our process is to reduce it, instead of adding on to it, because we're carvers.

Q What tools do you use?
A [MH] Old lumber saws, chisels, anything you can use to chop with.

Q What's your secret to success?
A [JD] We like to create hollow spaces, so it's not just one big snowman. Once we did four dolphins balancing a giant globe on their noses. [MH] It's fun to make the snow so thin it gets translucent and you can see the blue sky through it.

Q Has a sculpture ever collapsed?
A [JD] We were doing five swans on a pond, and the weather warmed up and it drizzled rain all day. When we got back only two swan necks were left. It was a real improvisation after that.

Q Is it hard to watch a sculpture melt?
A [JD] No, the joy is the work itself. And you can hope you'll get a few good pictures.

Photography by Dean Davis

This article was first published in January 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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