Local snow carving champs lend skills to Hockey Day

Whitehorse’s Donald Watt, captain of the Canadian International Snow Sculpting Champions, currently has sculptures on three different continents.

Whitehorse’s Donald Watt, captain of the Canadian International Snow Sculpting Champions, currently has sculptures on three different continents. However, Yukoners will be able to see some of his team’s award-winning work in person this week without a lengthy flight.

After weeks of globetrotting, taking in handfuls of awards, Watt and his teammates Michael Lane and Alaskan Peter Lucchetti, are helping ring-in Hockey Day in Canada this week in Whitehorse with a snow sculpture at the Canada Games Centre.

The sculpture will depict the famed 1905 game between the Ottawa Senators and the Dawson City Nuggets, a game being reenacted twice this week as part of the Hockey Day celebration.

“We’re doing two characters,” said Watt. “We are doing our interpretation of a grisly old goldpan miner from 1905. We’re putting a beard on him – looking at the old pictures none of them had beards.

“It’s a face-off sort of thing. And on the Ottawa team were the Silver Seven, so he’s slightly smaller and more clean-cut. And somewhat intimidated by this big, burly miner.”

Twice winning the public’s choice award and taking second by judges, the Canadian Snow Sculpture Team has had a fruitful season thus far.

Most recently competing at the 2011 Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado, Watt’s team (including Lane, Gisli Balzer, Shaila Baxendale and Evi Watt) constructed a ghoulish looking piece called Spirits of the Auroras. The sculpture, depicting the spirits whose torches were once believed to be the source of the northern lights, placed second by the judges, and first by both the public and their fellow artists.

“So we made these shadowy figures with a lot of fabric on them to represent the blanket of the northern lights and they were holding up torches,” said Watt. “Afterwards we illuminated it with fire.

“We researched how to colour fire, using methyl hydrate to burn clean hot and we mixed in boric acid (for purple) and potassium (for green). Up in the torches we drilled holes and stuck in road flares. They made the torches and the top glow red.”

Before the long flight to Colorado that stretched Watt’s 60th birthday to 31 hours, he, Lane and Lucchetti were at the 29th World Snow Festival in Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Building off the festival theme, Zest for Life, the team did a piece called Music Leads to Dance, depicting rollicking musicians playing in a group. It placed second by the judges and the artists, and first by the public.

Prior to Switzerland, Watt, Lane and Lucchetti were in Harbin, China, for the 16th Harbin International Snow Sculpture Competition, which consisted of 96 carvers in 24 teams from 14 countries.

Their piece, called Bear Mother, depicted a woman turning into a bear, placed third.

“That was great, I was quite happy with that,” said Watt. “I would have like to place higher, but third was fine. There were a few really good pieces there. I thought we were properly placed.”

Watt and Louchete also competed in an ice-sculpture in Harbin, Watt’s first, but failed to place.

“We borrowed a lot of tools and it was a big learning experience for us – competition ice is very interesting,” said Watt. “It wasn’t my first ice sculpture, but it was my first competition.”

Although no longer a competition, Watt, Lane and Yukoner Adam Green were at Winterlude 2011 in Ottawa this past weekend, doing a promotional piece for the Yukon government. Their sculpture was an almost five-metre-tall goldpanner down on one knee, not all too different than the one on Yukon license plates.

“The Yukon government wanted a promotional piece here, so we volunteered to come down here and do it,” said Watt.

For more images of the team’s sculptures from this past season and beyond, visit www.snowcarvers.ca.

“I was really proud of how we went to Breckenridge with the intention of wowing people with illumination and we succeeded in that,” added Watt. “I like how these 12-foot characters in Grindelwald looked light on their feet and danced and had that zest (people) were looking for. And I really thought the morphing of a woman into a bear was really a great sculpture in China.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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