Winter Wonderland

Finding Frosty

How to build the perfect Portland snowman

By Kasey Cordell May 19, 2009 Published in the January 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Chris Gash

IN MILD, MODERATE Portland, the opportunities to go walkin’ in a winter wonderland are rare indeed. But if the grand poobah of weather—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—is right, Mother Nature should sprinkle the city with a whopping 1.6 inches of snow, per our 30-year average for January. Given our brief chance to do Frosty proud, we turned to an expert to learn how best to take advantage of our infrequent dustings. Gabriel Mark of Mount Ashland-based Team Oregon, which won last year’s International Snow Sculpting Competition in Breckenridge, Colo., delivered step-by-step advice for creating a snowman par excellence.

STEP 1. Not all snow is created equal: You’ll need a mercury reading just below freezing and snow that’s neither too wet nor too dry—the kind that won’t soak your gloves.
STEP 2. Use a board or—if you’re one of the 10 Portlanders who owns one—a snow shovel to gather snow in one place.
STEP 3. Collect your equipment. Pro sculptors eschew the roll-and-hoist method; they use a mold to create a single, dense block of snow. Mark prefers four pieces of plywood nailed together in a tall, hollow, rectangular frame, but your trash can works as a stand-in. Frosty may end up on the small side, but the packed snow won’t melt as quickly.
STEP 4. Pack the pile of snow into your trash can, pausing to stomp it down every foot or so (with clean shoes).
STEP 5. In a perfect world, you’d let the snow “cure” overnight to get it the right consistency for sculpting. But this is Portland—we’ve got hours, not days! So once your bin is full, turn it upside down and coax the snow out.
STEP 6. Raid the kitchen. Use metal spatulas, spoons, butter knives and, of course, your hands to sculpt your block into that familiar round-bellied shape.
STEP 7. Garnish with the appropriate accoutrements. Like an umbrella.

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