Building snowmen is a tradition of which few are unaware. From holiday songs and movies, to childhood memories, snowmen rival reindeers and Santa Claus as symbols of the season. The earliest documentation of a snowman is in an illustration in Book of Hours, from 1380 — more than 600 years ago. This illustration is probably quite a bit younger than the first snowman ever built, but it’s the earliest mention historians have found. The world’s largest snowman was built in 2008 in Bethel, Maine. It stood 122 feet and one inch high and was named for Olympia Snowe — the senior Republican U.S. Senator representing Maine.
While most snowmen are built with concentric spheres of snow and topped with hats, scarves, twigs and the builder’s least favorite vegetable, there are many variations on the classical recipe.
In desert areas, tumbleweeds are sometimes collected and piled into snowman-like sculptures and many a “sand-man” has met his fate from tides on beaches, rather than the customary spring thaw. In Bozeman, however, snow is the most easily available material.
Building snowmen is easiest when the snow is slightly damp, rather than the dry powder we love to ski on so much.
[pullquote align=”right”]A few sculptures in the past few years at MSU have demonstrated that Calvin’s creations are not just fantasy.[/pullquote]
Making snowmen is hardly limited by the medium — as seen in the Calvin and Hobbes comics. The Snowmen House of Horrors, ominous snow shark fins and various sci-fi-esque snow monsters are hard to forget. A few sculptures in the past few years at MSU have demonstrated that Calvin’s creations are not just fantasy. A sea-monster in the Roskie Fields, a snow monster (complete with teeth) devouring a snowman in the Romney Oval and a snowman frantically swimming from a fin trailing with red food coloring in the North Hedges Courtyard are just a few that have appeared on campus.
If the stress of dead week and finals prove too much, take a page from Calvin’s book and create tons of mini-snowmen to trample Godzilla-style to relieve some of those end of semester feelings.
Snowmen aren’t the only thing to build in the fresh snow.
Making an igloo is another cool thing to try in the recent snowfall. Last year, at the Quads, some productive students fabricated an igloo outside of their dorms.
There’s many helpful how-to guides for igloo-building online, such as at howstuffworks.com and wikihow.com.
A particularly interesting type of igloo, is called a stained glass igloo — named so because of its colorful, sunlight filtering appearance when finished. The how-to is simple: collect milk or juice cartons and fill them with water and add a few drops of food coloring. Shake and deposit them outside to freeze overnight. Repeat until you have about 50 to 100 giant colored icecubes. Methodically build your igloo; I recommend using damp snow as mortar. When the sun is high and bright, the light will stream through the igloo, creating patterns of color on the inside.
Igloos originate with the Inuit tribe in Northern Canada. Warmed with body heat alone, the internal temperature of an igloo can be raised up to 55 degrees Celsius, or 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The largest igloo was built in Bellevue, Wisconsin in February 2010 and measured 27 feet and 4 inches wide and 17 feet and 6 inches high. It took 75 days, 3 feet of snow and 25 people to build. It has been affectionately named the Bigloo.
While breaking the record may not be your goal, building an igloo is a fun pastime to help recharge you for next semester. After all, many agree regular breaks in the books to exercise and relax will help you stay focused and alert without the aid of caffeine or sugar.