To most people, apres-ski means a warm chalet, hot drink, spa or dinner. To Simon Beck of Great Britain, it means creating intricate pictures in the snow. And not just snow angels: Beck’s snow art involves mathematical patterns and often stretches the length of several soccer fields.
"There’s a frozen lake outside where I stay, and one day after skiing I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to make a pattern?" he said. "I didn’t have any snow shoes, just walking boots, but the snow wasn’t too deep and it worked perfectly well."
He’s been doing it ever since, creating snow art so unique that he says Disney has asked him to create an image for its winter movie, "Frozen."
After Beck read New York Times reporter James Gleick’s book, "Chaos: Making a New Science," he started incorporating mathematical patterns into his work.
"That’s part of my inspiration," he said.
The Koch curve snowflake shown here is one of his favorite patterns.
Beck has been creating snow art seriously for about five years. One of his favorite patterns to stomp, shown here, is based on the Sierpinski triangle. "It’s quite easy to do, and it makes a good impact," he said. "I also use it as one element in larger works."
He also likes to make patterns that are variations on the Mandelbrot set. He created this one, shown here after 26 hours, in a total of 32 hours over three days.
“The biggest was about 10 soccer fields,” he said. “It’s a bit hard to measure, but a decent-sized project is about three soccer fields. That takes one day if conditions are good.”
Good conditions mean 6-inch deep snow, or 6 inches of powder on top of a firm base.
Beck does most of his work in a French ski resort where he spends his winters. Frozen lakes are ideal. In those kinds of conditions, he’ll make do about two projects per week, posting photos on Facebook. The ultimate goal is to create a coffee-table book.
"Quite honestly, once I have good photos I don’t care how long they stay around for," he said.
Beck also occasionally works on commission, creating logos in different locations.
Beck, a map-maker by trade, says the designs come naturally. "It’s just like map making," he said. "It’s the same process, in reverse." Bonus: the walking keeps him in shape. "I don’t need to do any exercise apart from snow art," he said.