Our December 2022 Creator of the Month, Simon Beck draws nature’s unique geometry with his alpine snow art.
To his knowledge, Simon Beck is the only snow artist in the world. Certainly, his creations – geometric patterns stamped into snow that settles on the mountainside – are unique. An orienteer-turned-downhill-skier, Simon is at home in winter. From his base in Les Arcs, he travels the world with his snowshoes adding fleeting beauty to alpine landscapes that inspire him. Yet, his snow art started “as something of a joke”, he tells The Great Outdoors. Upon completing his first snow work spontaneously after a day skiing, Simon was “amazed” at how it looked from above.
Words: Francesca Donovan | Images: Simon Beck
As a youngster, Simon yearned to be on top of hills, looking down. Early adventures to Box and Butser Hill, to name a few, left him wanting more. His “big is beautiful mentality” was nurtured when he encountered the geometric shape of Crib Goch and experienced an “insane urge” to climb. On seeing An Teallach for the first time, he “charged off leaving the keys of my motorcycle in the ignition. Fortunately, it was still there when I returned!”
For Simon, “a mountain without snow is like a wine without alcohol. It just isn’t the real thing.” He likes the texture of fresh snow and the way it sparkles when touched by light. Drawn to the fractal shapes observable in both nature and his art, Simon’s pieces can take more than three days to complete, depending on conditions. Planning and measuring of cardinal points is vital to compositions. It’s like “mapmaking in reverse – making something on the ground agree with something drawn on paper”.
Using judgement, compass bearings and pace counting, Simon walks these drawings to life in the snow where they stay, shifting with the climate and absorbing new life as explorers make their own marks on the slopes. Each step Simon – who is “somewhat backward in my use of technology” – takes leaves a stroke in this challenging, ever-changing art form. “A big drawing is as tiring as hiking Mont Blanc in a day,” Simon muses – he’s summited six times but won’t again due to the deteriorating glaciers.
“Drawing is a different way of hiking in the mountains. It’s more comfortable and generally easier than getting to the top. In a way, it’s a bit of a cop-out.” Having already reached the peaks of his fair share of mountains, however, Simon is happy to skip the summits in the name of art.
Read more in the latest issue of The Great Outdoors.