by Kristin Frauenhoffer
Snow is fascinating. Not only for children, but for everyone. At least for people living in countries where snow is rather rare, like Germany. Only a few centimetres of the cold, fluffy material make us smile like kids and take out our slides and skis. Kim Asmussen, who lives in the Canadian province Ontario, has found a rather unusual way to play with snow. For the 63 year old retired school principal snow is above all, a canvas. With his snow shoes he stomps beautiful designs on snowed in lakes and snow fields creating special figures and forms that can be seen from far. Often he gets help from friends and people from the village, so his art is not only a solitary one but it brings people together. In the interview he tells us more about his passion.
Where did you get the idea for your snow shoe art?
During my years as a teacher I often took the students outside for education, which included designing and building mazes in the snow for other students to play in. So snow has always been fascinating for me.I got the idea when I was researching ice sculptures a few years ago, as I was building an ice sculpture of a baby grand piano. A few pictures showed up of snow shoe art done by Simon Beck. And I thought to myself, “I can do that” and tried it.
What made you want to try it?
There are a few reasons. Firstly I like a challenge to create things. I also am a “line type of guy” who likes patterns and lines and this ﬁts nicely into that mindset of mine. Exercise is obviously another reason. Last year, because of Covid regulations here, for most of the winter we could only gather in groups of no more than ﬁve, so it allowed us to socialize a bit. You would meet one person in the group as your lines were crossing and would stop and chat for a bit then continue on. For a short period (one design) we were allowed to gather outdoors, as long as we kept or two metre separation and had 16 people out. They all enjoyed just talking to each other in person.
So it is not just a solitary activity…
As time went on I realized the joy it brought to so many people who were isolated from family and friends, so that also became a motivation. It has also brought a lot of pride to our small town. Like most small towns you say hi to everyone. But people who usually just say hi are stopping to talk to me. They tell me how much they are enjoying the art and how it is putting our town on the map.
How do you feel while doing it?
When I am doing the snow shoe art I have a few feelings that I deal with. Obviously, the fear that it might not turn out as you planned, or that you make a mistake. If you might make a mistake, then you have to ﬁgure out how to change the design so it looks alright. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes when you’re packing an area you stop and think to yourself, “Am I in the right spot”.
It is exciting when you get a group together because you are trying to orchestrate who does what. And you try to plan so people don’t have to stand around. I have found that for anything people love to help, but when they show up to help they want to be doing something. This means that often I go out ahead so things are set up, or I get someone to come out to help before the others arrive. When you’re done and you get that drone shot it is very gratifying to see how it turned out. Sometimes when I’m doing one by myself it is just peaceful to walk and feel that cool breeze. It is nice when you are out on a lake and there are no other tracks on it.
What do you do before going into the snow? How do you prepare for the artwork?
To do the art I look at pictures of line drawings etc, then see what I can do to make it work on snow shoes, other shapes I design on my own. I sketch it sometimes, but try it on a CAD program, this helps to give me measure if needed. Then I have to look to see if I can make it while only walking where the design is. I look at the design and see where packing the snow in certain spots gives it a special look.
Once in the snow, how do you proceed?
People have different types of snow shoes so you try to have them pack in a certain area while other people with a different snowshoe pack in another spot. There are also different ways to pack, or shade in areas once the lines for the shape are made. Sometime a section of the design will be packed solid where the whole area is packed. I try to have each area packed the same way. For instance, if a triangle needs packing then I might pack around the perimeter and keep going until I get to the middle. Now that you’re in the middle of the triangle you have to side step out for there will be a line through it from your snow shoes.
I might do a similar thing in another section only making parallel lines about one metre apart. Also there is always an entry point into your design and you try to cover up those marks by the way you pack parts of the design.
That sounds quite challenging. How did you learn to do this kind of art?
I basically learned this art by self teaching myself how to do it. Basically you’re drawing and making it bigger. And not allowing your pencil to leave the canvas, in my case the snow.
Which designs have you done so far?
I have done mostly geometric drawings, however, last year I ﬁnished the season off with a bear and cub and called it “Mommy, it’s Been a Long Winter”. It was hot that day and the snow didn’t pack like fresh snow does. I had planned on doing a moose also, but we never got the snow before the lakes became unsafe. People seem to like snowﬂakes so I am trying to incorporate at least one into each design now.
How can people admire your art? It can only be seen from above right?
I try to do most of my art so trafﬁc driving by can see it. Although the best way to see it is from a picture taken with a drone on a sunny day. Once that picture is taken it doesn’t matter what happens to the design. If it snows that night, then you have a new canvass to start a new one as nothing is here forever.
What is art for you?
Art for me is something that invokes emotion when you see it. It turns out that the snow shoe art, I think especially because of Covid, invoked a lot of happiness in people. Last year I did an ice sculpture of a WW1 soldier and that really tugged at quite a few people’s hearts. This snowshoe art gives joy to people. I think people also like it because I am just a regular guy who is doing something unique.
What do you plan for the future?
I would love to see a snowshoe art festival along a 200 km stretch of our highway. It is the main highway across Canada. There could be designs on all the small lakes that can be seen from the highway. I would also like to get a webpage up to show people how to do some of the designs and include tables with measurements. Also the more I can do the better. If it is too windy then your tracks get covered in as soon as you make them. If the sun doesn’t come out for a few days then you might get that drone picture. I have had a few cities contact me about going to their winter festivals to do snowshoe art with there citizens. So this might materialize into more opportunities for me. It’s exciting when you have a group of people together doing the art.
What do you if there is no snow?
In the winter, if there is not the right type of weather, I have taken up ice sculpting. But I like to ski and skate aswell. In the summer, I am also starting to try chainsaw carving and also like to dabble in stone work. I also like to golf and play pickleball.
Many thanks to Uta Nabert for bringing us together with Kim Asmussen!
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