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