Have you ever built something out of snow or sand? At the U.S. National Snow Sculpture Competition, teams carve 10-foot tall cylinders of packed snow into amazing sculptures. One of the designers of Design Squad Global, Stefan, competed on a 3-person team and shared how it’s done.

Robot snow sculpture front and back

We came to the competition with a design in mind, a few sketches, and a small clay model. Our goal was to make it look like a lot of weight was supported by a little bit of snow. Once we arrived, we marked a grid around the cylinder with string and copied our sketches onto the snow. Then it was time to cautiously make the first cuts.

Tools displayed on the floor

Each team brought their own set of tools for measuring, cutting, scraping, shaping, polishing, and drilling.

Two people with saws near a large snow cylinder

Piece by piece, we removed snow with the large saws, slowly turning the cylinder into the rough shape of our design. Then we carved the details with smaller, more precise tools. No snow went to waste. Snow that was removed from one part was added to other parts of the sculpture. We climbed ladders to add snow on top of the cylinder and make our sculpture 12 feet high.

Head and shoulders of the snow robot

The texture of the snow changed over the day, so we planned our work around that. In the middle of the day, the warm sunlight softened the snow, and we worked on the sculpture’s overall shape. When the sun went down, the softer parts froze, making it possible to carve the details. We had to plan each step carefully. The wrong cut could result in the robot's arm falling off!

We slowly chipped away more snow and shaped our design over three and a half intense days of work. On the last day, thousands of people came to the sculpting site. When the judge announced, “Tools down!” we stepped back to see our design: a 12-foot tall robot carved entirely from snow.

What sculpture would YOU design? Submit your ideas in the Design section.

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