Snowking’s snowcrete

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You probably thought: What the heck is snowcrete?

Well, snowcrete is a natural product made of what Yellowknife has plenty of in the winter: snow!

Work continues this week on the snow castle for the 23rd Snowking’s Winter Festival, which runs March 3 to 30 on Yellowknife Bay. James O’Connor/NNSL photo

Like concrete, snowcrete is strong, hard, durable and quite capable of handling the elements.

Wikipedia defines concrete as, “a composite material of coarse aggregate bonded together with a fluid cement that hardens over time.” Great works like the Pantheon in Rome or the Hoover Dam down in the States couldn’t have been created without concrete.

Because Wikipedia doesn’t define snowcrete, it is up to Snowking to explain what snowcrete is. Snowcrete first appeared in 2004 when Snowking decided to blow snow into a plywood form because he was tired of making withdrawals from the snow bank and stacking snow blocks.

As snow travels through a snow blower’s augers, it is warmed slightly and reduced to a fine powder which, as it lands in the form, is compacted under its own weight or with assistance of a snow artisan’s boot.

Under pressure and left overnight at -25 C, this snow freezes into a rock-hard building material, a process sometimes referred to as snow sintering. Twenty-three snow castles couldn’t have been created without snowcrete.

But why this talk about snowcrete today?

Well, you will have noticed that the 23rd snow castle is being created on Yellowknife Bay, getting ready to host the winter festival in March. The snow castle and its creation techniques represent 23 years of traditional Snowking knowledge, recognized and appreciated by many.

Knowledge is passed on and shared with many snow artisans and snow cadets, building capacity and making sure that snow castles are created long after Snowking’s retirement in God’s country on the other side of the lake.

Snowcrete allows responsible creation of massive walls with embedded Romanesque style windows and arches. Snowking is already dreaming about future Gothic style flying buttresses.

You will have seen the beautiful snow sculptures which have appeared at the snow castle in recent years. Snowking learned that snowcrete is revered by visiting snow sculptors from far and wide because of its strength, purity and permanence.

Notwithstanding the odd frozen dog turd impurity, carvers are in awe that their creations last well past judging day.

Unlike concrete, snowcrete eventually loses the battle against spring’s warm temperatures. But, it puts up quite the battle before it turns to Great Slave Lake water again.

Every year, the disappearing snow castle inspire Snowking and his crew of hardened snow artisans to plan with confidence the creation of the next one.

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