As winter storms rage outside, blanketing large parts of the world with layers of snow, the fortunate among us are warming up around a fire, or at least a crude mechanical approximation of a fire. The even more fortunate among us are skiing down the frosty slopes of the French Alps, ploughing through piles of the white puffy stuff. And the most fortunate of all are those who happen to be at the same ski chalet as Simon Beck, who improves upon the already-beautiful landscape with his own artistic additions: massive mandalas set in the snow.
Fields of corn have received the crop circle treatment for decades. In recent years, sandy beaches have also been decorated with huge geometric patterns. But it took Beck, a pair of snowshoes, a measuring tape and an analog compass to bring these fabulous fractals to colder climes. He originally started to take walks in the snow because it was easier on his weathered feet, but once he saw the pattern that his puttering around made from the eagle’s eye perspective of a ski chair lift, he realized that he had unwittingly created a beautiful work of art.
Beck has been creating stunning visuals in the snow for over a decade now, and he has since made it has primary vocation, supporting himself from sales of the photographs he takes of the snow art. After planning out the design on paper with a protractor, the process of creating a pattern can take 10 hours, which is all the daylight that reaches the Alps during the winter months. Stomping out a snow pattern can require that he walk back and forth, criss-crossing the drifts for up to 40 kilometers.
Although his snow art is now a source of income for him as well as a hobby, Beck says that his main motivation is to inspire people to appreciate nature and to embrace simplicity. “I hope to spread the message the mountains and snow are beautiful and worth preserving, and there are better things in life than spending so much time doing things you don’t want to so that you can spend money you haven’t got (yet) to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like,” says Beck.