Central Alberta sculptor Morton Burke is heading to Minnesota next week to carve some animal heads out of snow — and hopefully win a world championship
Burke, from Bergen, as well as his Edmonton teammates, Will Truchon and Christian Denis, will be putting their combined 60-plus years of snow carving experience to the test in Stillwater, Minn.
From Jan. 18 to 22, the World Snow Sculpting Championships will be held there, drawing competitive sculpting teams from around the globe — including from Argentina, Finland, Germany, Ecuador, Mexico and Turkey. There are several U.S. teams and Quebec and Northwest Territories are other Canadian entries.
Burke and his Alberta crew are planning to create a monumental, 15-foot sculpture of “four iconic big game animals from North America” — a bear, moose, big-horned sheep and bison.
Above them will rise mountain peaks and forest — all to be carved out of packed snow.
Burke doesn’t worry about his team’s ability to create such detailed scenes. He has been carving “numerous” snow sculptures from Asia to Inuvik, near the Arctic Circle.
His last award-winning entry was at a contest held in Northern China, near Mongolia, just before the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
His 14-foot Power of Nature sculpture, consisting of four buffalo heads that merged on top of their humps, won an Award of Excellence prize.
This time out, Burke feels lucky to have teamed up with expert carvers Truchon and Denis for the Minnesota contest. His only worry is the weather.
“It’s going to be close to zero, or even a couple of degrees above,” he said, noting at those temperatures, snow turns to mush “and you can’t get the definition.”
To compensate, the team plans to carve late into the night, from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. when the air is colder and snow is crisper.
This is the first such event since the pandemic so Burke said he’s eagerly anticipating it.
The Bergen-area resident has also competed in many stone carving events and has a sculpture garden on his property.