The crazy house is Baba Yagas’ house on chicken legs that was commissioned by the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton in 2013.

Mother Nature the ice sculptor’s adversary

Snow sculptor Brian McArthur has carved legendary Quebec strongman Louis Cyr, an accordion-playing Mountie, and an enormous pair of hockey skates.

Snow sculptor Brian McArthur has carved legendary Quebec strongman Louis Cyr, an accordion-playing Mountie, and an enormous pair of hockey skates.

But the biggest challenge isn’t the countless hours of carving or concocting new subjects.

It’s Mother Nature.

“The weather, you can’t do anything about it. That affects the snow quality,” said McArthur, who was showing a decade’s worth of his ice sculptures at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery on Sunday.

In the world of ice sculpting the chinook is not your friend.

That’s one of the reasons there are few ice sculptors from Alberta, compared with Ontario, Quebec, and even Manitoba, he said.

“In Alberta, with chinooks and everything, it’s really tough here.”

The ideal temperature for sculpting is -10 C.

“Anything above 0 C isn’t great. The condition of the snow deteriorates.”

Of course, the unrelenting -30 C he had to contend with on his first snow sculpting project in Winnipeg 10 years ago was hardly ideal either.

Despite our fickle weather, McArthur hasn’t stopped tackling home-grown projects. His handiwork will be on display at the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton, which runs Feb. 14-23.

His bird in hand will be carved out of a 2.4-metre square chunk of snow.

In the past decade, McArthur and his team have averaged three snow sculptures a year and he has won a number of competitions, including taking first place two years in a row from 2009 to 2010 at the National Snow Sculpting Competition, held in Gatineau, Que. and Edmonton. They also placed several other years.

Unfortunately, that competition is no longer run but McArthur still undertakes commissioned works as well as the Silver Skate Festival.

The national competitions saw sculptors take their chisels, shovels, wire saws, chain saws, forks and anything else that worked to massive five-metre tall, 40-tonne blocks of snow.

Those projects were undertaken by a team that often has included his wife and fellow artist Dawn Detarando. Other teammates at different times have included Mirror furniture craftsman Michael Decaire, Red Deer’s Pierre Oberg, Edmonton’s Eric Burton and former local resident Will Truchon.

Sculptors were only given 55 hours to turn snow into art.

McArthur said getting started is one of the most stressful parts of the whole process. Standing on the block of snow sculptors have to figure out the best angle for lighting and the audience and to take into account sunlight direction.

“Once you start you’re kind of committed,” he said.

Once the work begins, it’s all about 12-hour days and keeping an eye on the clock.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges is knowing time and control.”

One sculpture by another team — a pair of fiddles — would probably have won a competition but the sculptors ran out of time and it wasn’t quite done.

Over the years, McArthur and his team have come up with a number of amazing sculptures. There have been voyageurs carrying a canoe, a salute to Red Deer-raised architect Douglas Cardinal featuring the city’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Ottawa’s Museum of Civilization, and a giant pair of hands knitting.

To see examples of his work go to

Just Posted

People hurt in rollover near Red Deer

Occupants of a vehicle that rolled south of Hwy 11A were airlifted… Continue reading

Eager-beaver cannabis entrepreneurs already waiting outside Red Deer City Hall

Appications will be accepted on a first-come basis starting on Tuesday

Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business:… Continue reading

Restaurant owner concerned about Gasoline Alley road changes

Nearly 20 trucks were lined up on the service road in front… Continue reading

Preliminary hearings set for two men charged in weapons and drugs bust

A Red Deer man and Sylvan Lake man are facing 80 charges

WATCH: Hypnotizing show at Westerner Days

Hynotist and mentalist Joshua Seth performs three times a day at Westerner Days

WWII hero’s lost Purple Heart returned to his family

NEW YORK — A lost Purple Heart medal has been returned to… Continue reading

California girl, 2, accidentally shot and killed by boy, 4

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Authorities say a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and… Continue reading

A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Now that women in the Navy can wear ponytails,… Continue reading

PHOTOS: River Town Saints rock Red Deer

River Town Saints play Westerner Days Friday in Red Deer

PHOTOS: Dogs, horses and more animals at Westerner Days

Westerner Park’s pavilions were filled with animals during Westerner Days

Red Deer residents can’t get enough mini-doughnuts

Mini-doughnuts were the biggest draw to Westerner Days according to a Red… Continue reading

Four-car crash, including RCMP vehicle, on Highway 2

Two sheriff vehicles were also involved in the collision

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month