SILVERTHORNE, COLO. –
Simon Beck carefully traces his path before shuffling into a windswept snow field high in the Rockies.
Using a compass, snowshoes and his past as a cartographer and competitive advisor, the 61-year-old British artist and several volunteers recently broke into a frozen reservoir near the town of Silverthorne, west of Denver, to create a huge, geometric design in a new snow screen.
The result, after more than a dozen hours of work, in cold weather and relentless sunshine, was a spectacular spiraling pattern spanning about two football fields.
"I hope you make people aware of snow, the environment, beauty and how we need snow," Beck said after completing the drawing. "And I think it is a really beautiful and unique art form".
Beck ended the day by greeting his volunteers and congratulations on the people who gathered on a nearby hill to watch their progress.
But it was not always so well. It is never clear how many workers will appear. And if bad weather comes, an intricate work of art can quickly disappear.
"It's very frustrating when you keep walking for hours and hours and hours and then the wind blows before you finish," he said.
Beck began making fractal designs in the snow in 2004 in front of his winter home at the Les Arcs ski resort in France as he stomped on a five-pointed star measuring over 91 meters "just for fun." He didn't realize how good it looked until he got on a cable car the next day and saw it from above.
"The snow drawing, which seems to me a pretty obvious idea, was not something anyone had ever done as far as I knew, and I was really surprised by that," he said.
Beck completed about 330 drawings of snow and 120 in the sand and set a goal of 1,000 drawings in total at the age of 80. His drawings are ordered worldwide, he published a book and attracted a dedicated fan base.
Carolyn Tiller, who has been following Beck's career for three or four years, followed his progress in the reservoir and handed him and his crew cookies and cocoa.
The 62-year-old retired gemologist said Beck's art reminds her of her childhood playing with a Spirograph, the classic toy that facilitates the creation of detailed geometric designs.
"I also really appreciate someone who can do something step by step after step," said Tiller, who lives across the reservoir street. "They say that the biggest journeys start with one step, and this is a perfect example."