ADAM WARMACK CARVES JEEP® BRAND SNOW SCULPTURE AT X GAMES ASPEN 2016

1stAdam Warmack has his own way of carving the slopes. As a professional snow sculptor, Adam forgoes skis and goggles for a chisel and a saw. This year he joined the Jeep® brand again for a trip up the mountain to X Games Aspen 2016, where he put his artistry to work on a Jeep brand snow sculpture. Between shaping the snow and ice, Adam took a minute to sit down with us to tell us what it takes to be a snow sculptor.

How did you get started in snow sculpture?

Adam: I started snow sculpting in college as part of their Winter Carnival.  There, the sculptures are built over a one-month period by student organizations, and the fraternities build the largest and most impressive. The fraternity I belonged to consistently failed to place in the competition and often didn’t finish. My first year, I discovered I had a knack for sculpting snow and over my four years became obsessed with leading my team to win Winter Carnival. Unfortunately, we never placed above 4th. But, one of our alumni, Dan “Scooby” Povolo, used to visit during carnival and noticed my interest in snow sculpture. He was the sculpture chair during his day and we geeked out together about snow. After I graduated he introduced me to competitive snow sculpting and became my mentor. We’ve now been sculpting together for over ten years and have traveled all over the world together.

2ndScooby

Can you tell us about your design process? How much planning or blueprinting goes in ahead of time, and how much do you design as you work?

Adam: My general process starts with a simple 2D Sketch to lay out the theme and general look of the sculpture. After that, I will make a clay or foam scale sculpture to work out the dimensions. I then take photographs of that sculpture at different angles and import them into design software where I make finished 2D layouts. Usually, it takes about 40 to 50 hours of work to fully lay out the sculpture before we’re ready. Recently, I’ve started to use 3D modeling software to lay out the initial rough cuts and general shape of the masses. I’m now looking into 3D printing a model ahead of time to use as reference while we sculpt.

Can you walk us through the process of making a snow sculpture?

Adam: The process starts with a large wooden box, typically around 10 feet tall.  We fill the box with loose snow and walk on top of it to compact it. We do not use any water or additives to make snow hard. Simply walking on top of the snow will compact it into a consistent texture.  Once the block has set, we lay out rough cuts and try to remove as much as we can with large saws. Often we will build out from the original block by cutting cubes of snow and stacking them like toy building blocks. Overnight they’ll refreeze back into a solid structure. After the rough cuts are finished, we start to shape and detail the sculpture using smaller saws and large chisels.

 

Using a big saw to cut out the blocks

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Big chisel

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Shaping

What kind of tools do you use? How long does a typical sculpture take?

Adam: There are four basic kinds of tools: saws, chisels, shapers and sanders. We have a variety of saws that range from 4 feet to 1 inch. Our chisels range from around 4 inches to a ¼ inch. They’re very large, sharp and have long handles that work well in snow. For shapers, our primary tool is wood construction nail plates that we’ve affixed handles to.  These have small protrusions that we can use to flatten surfaces and shape curves. Mostly we make our own tools or re-purpose other tools. I’m always on the lookout for old tools or random things like cheese-graters to re-purpose.

Smaller saws, chisels and shaping tools

7thNail plate (truss plate)

Can you give us a walkthrough of the Jeep sculpture? Which vehicles or brand logos was it modeled after, and what parts and pieces went into it?

Adam: The sculpture consisted of three primary elements: the iconic Jeep brand logo, the Trail Rated® logo and a Jeep Wrangler Backcountry Edition. These elements were placed as if they are breaking through — or being born from — a snow-capped mountain.

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Adam: This year’s sculpture was a unique challenge as far a snow sculptures go. The design of this sculpture included a Jeep Wrangler Backcountry Edition breaking through a mountain of snow, which meant incorporating an actual vehicle. I had never worked with any materials other than snow in my sculptures, and early on we realized that it would be too difficult to try and build a sculpture around an actual Jeep Wrangler. We decided instead to build a Jeep fascia using body panels, trim and the front axle on a steel frame, and then push that into the sculpture. The model ended up being around 500 pounds and could be wheeled around on front wheels. We carved a hole for the Jeep Wrangler and then, using six guys, lifted it into place.

What do you think is unique about the way you work with snow? What sets you apart?

Adam: I think my particular talent with snow is working with fine details, like the Jeep Trail Rated logo. The details add depth to the sculpture and provide discoveries for crowds as they walk around the sculptures.

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This is your second year working with the Jeep brand. Can you describe that experience?

Adam: Last year and this year, at least once per day one of my teammates would say, “I can’t believe we’re here.”  Aspen and Buttermilk Mountain are intensely beautiful. The weather seems to be sunny, even when it’s snowing. The setup of X Games 2016 is a thing to behold. It’s a study in controlled chaos. There are thousands of people running around the hill decked out in snow pants and walkie-talkies taking care of their responsibilities. The size and scope of the project is intense, but it seems to go off without a hitch. Once the games start, we’re already finished with our sculpture, so we have some time to relax and take in the event.  It’s incredible how big the jumps and half-pipe are when you’re up close.

What is it about the Jeep brand that makes it a natural fit for the kind of work you do?

Adam: One of the main things I love about sculpting snow is that it’s outside. A key part of being good at snow sculpting is being prepared for the weather and environment.  I’ve sculpted in everything from 30 below to rain. Being comfortable and able to focus on sculpting rather than shivering means having the right tools and the right gear. The Jeep brand celebrates living life outside and having the capability to handle the elements.

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11thSculpting in the snow

Do you participate in outdoor winter sports, or is all your focus on building sculptures with the snow and ice?

Adam: I’m pretty focused when we’re building the sculpture. But I do ski, and because most events take place at ski resorts I do take advantage of the opportunity.

What do you do in the summertime? Do you have another outlet for your craft?

Adam: I’m in the middle of restoring a historic home in Detroit. So, when I’m not building snow sculptures, I’m working on my house. I’m doing much of the carpentry and woodworking myself, and I find the skill-sets overlapping quite a bit. Carpentry is fairly similar to snow sculpting in that to do it successfully you need the right set of tools, knowledge, project management skills and patience for things collapsing.

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Tool from Adam’s carpentry tool bag that made it into his snow-sculpting bag

See more of Adam’s work at Adam-Warmack.com, and check out some of his recent pieces on Instagram @awarmack. For more on performing in the winter elements, visit jeep.com and xgames.espn.go.com.

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