Art in the Alps


By Tanya Silverman

Many skiers consider the Alps a divine environment for their sport. Simon Beck, meanwhile, views the range as an apt canvas for his art.

“The mountains are spectacular and you’ve got the skiing infrastructure so you can get up to the location you want to do these drawings–but you don’t have to expend any energy,” explains Beck. “Which means all the actual energy you spend is on making the drawing itself.”

Amidst the backdrop of the pristine European pines and peaks, Beck treks through the snow to form some mandala-like vortexes, other swirly, starry oblong morphs, or even complexly spotted snowflakes.

The geologic and geometric snow-art process that Beck executes is duly physical and mathematical. Each project requires 10-12 hours to complete.

Initially, Beck says he strolls straight through the snow to mark the diameter, and then retracts halfway. From that designated center point, Beck paces out to draw about 10 radii. He determines which radii will mark the shape of the overall figure–be it a trapezoid, oblong, or hexagon–and which sections to shade in.

At about five hours of drawing lines is when Beck breaks to eat, a necessary activity he goes about “very slowly to avoid sucking food into” his lungs while he’s breathing. Typically, he consumes “one biscuit every three to four minutes for about at hour” until he garners enough energy to start the shading.

“I try to get all the lines done before it gets dark,” describes Beck, “and then I put my head torch on to get the shading… done in one session.”

The ideal snow canvas for the athletic artist comes nine inches deep with a firm base. If it’s deeper, hiking through it is harder, but if it’s shallower, that’s not enough substance to work through. Snow that’s too firm means more resistance, making the labor difficult. For snow art, Beck says, the Alps’ environment is usually better earlier in the season.

Daily weather forecasts are just as important as the seasonal climactic conditions. Beck has to draw his snow art when the following day is predicted to be sunny, as that’s when it’s time to photograph the finished pieces.

The cover of Beck’s first book.

Beck’s work just got compiled into his first book, Snow Art, published by S-Editions. Some of the artist’s earlier pieces weren’t included because he did not document them with an adequate camera, so he’s thinking of reproducing these shapes for a second series.

Looks like the Alps’ next snowy season will call for the return of this snow artist–amongst the numerous skiers.

All snow art by Simon Beck; photos courtesy of S-Editions.