7 Amazing Images of Snow Art

Nature can be fleeting in its beauty and winter can be particularly ephemeral. Enter Simon Beck, an artist who captures the season’s elusive beauty by carving intricate geometric designs into snowy landscapes. Using his own eyes for precision, Beck tramps across white mountaintops and frozen lakes in France simply wearing briquette snow shoes.

Recently, we spoke with the artist about his snowscapes, his process and his plans for future pieces on a warming planet.

Pictured above is a piece he did at the Les Arcs Ski Resort in the French Alps.

One imagines it would take days to complete such complicated designs, like this one completed at Les Arcs, France.

However, Beck says that each piece averages about 10 hours to “really do it properly,” though he will leave a design unfinished if his feet become too uncomfortable.

Beck, who is an experienced orienteer, explains that the setting out of the design is initially done using a simple handheld orienteering compass. Next, he determines the appropriate distances on his designs by using pace counting or measuring tape. Curves are sometimes judged using a clothesline attached to an anchor at the center of the design. Then Beck adds in the remaining lines and shadings by eye.

All photos courtesy of Simon Beck

Just how long do these designs, like this one created at Les Arcs, France, last in the snow? Beck says that they usually stay in place until the next heavy snowfall and occasionally even longer.

“At one extreme in 2011, the first design of the season, completed on Jan. 3, was seen as a ‘ghost’ underneath up to three later designs for the rest of the season,” Beck says.

But sometimes, the opposite is true. “On the other side, a design I completed at half past midnight on Dec. 19, 2011, had completely disappeared by the time I got up the next morning,” he says. Luckily, Beck did get some reasonable night photos of the ill-fated Dec. 19 design.

Beck hails from southern England, but lives in Savoie, France, during the ski season. He admits that his pieces inevitably draw a comparison to crop circles, the mysterious geometric designs cut into fields that first appeared in southern England in the 1970s. They were later determined to be a hoax.

However, Beck is quick to point out that he has never been involved in the creation of crop circles. Further, he does not condone this sort of activity without permission of the landowner, though he shared that he would like to do some farm art with “expressed permission.”

Here above we see another Les Arcs design in a photo that has been modified by Beck. He shrunk the horizontal dimensions, darkened the highlights, and increased the contrast and color saturation. It was taken on Christmas Day 2011.

Beck attended the University of Oxford and received a degree in engineering science. He started doing the designs “for a bit of fun” during the 2004 ski season, after purchasing a winter home at the Les Arcs Resort in Savoie, France.

What inspires Beck’s designs? They all come from the world of geometry, he says. Citing the Mandelbrot set, the Koch snowflake, and theSierpinski triangle as his three favorite designs, Beck notes that his pieces have grown more complicated as he has gotten better at doing them.

All photos courtesy of Simon Beck

Beck’s tsunami memorial design on the reservoir at Arc 2000 in Savoie, France was completed on March 11, 2012. This piece took around 10 to 15 hours to make, although Beck did not precisely time it. He dedicated this work to the many people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“A lot of the inspiration for the snow art comes from the gardens in the temples in Kyoto, where sand is raked in patterns [like these],” he says. “This is the closest thing I have seen elsewhere to the effect I achieve with snow.”

The designs are a five-pointed version of the fractal “snowflake curve,” named by the mathematician Helge von Koch.

In determining the perfect conditions for snow art, Beck generally waits once a week for a heavy snowfall with six days of fine, cold weather in between. This allows him to make two designs per week and get good photos, while going on to reuse the sites the following week.

What are Beck’s feelings on the warmer winters? “It’s annoying,” he says. “[Warmer temperatures] mean that the lakes become unsafe to walk on. So I have to use other sites that are not flat and prone to getting tracked by skiers, walkers and animals.”

Still, he sees climate change as an issue that will most affect resorts at lower altitudes. “Here in Les Arcs, there is enough high ground for climate change to shorten the season a few weeks,” he says. “But lower resorts will have to switch to other activities.”

All photos courtesy of Simon Beck

What’s next for Beck, who is pictured here in his snowshoes with Mount Pourri in Les Arcs in the background? He plans to continue his art further north where it is still “sensibly cold.”

“If conditions in Arctic Norway continue to look good, I shall go up there after the season has ended here for more art,” he says.

In 2013, Beck plans to employ some assistants and expand his snow art with visits to other French ski resorts. He may even put together a snow art tour.

Text by Katherine Butler

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Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

awe inspiring. wow

Celia Daniels
Ceil Daniels2 years ago

Talk about environmental art!

Ala M.
Ala Morales2 years ago

Beautiful work of art. Great imagination.

jenny H.
jenny H.2 years ago


Mary L.
Mary L.2 years ago

Wonderful! Thank you for sharing the beauty!

Sadiq Khan
Past Member 2 years ago

Lovely. Thank you.

Veronique L.
veronique L.2 years ago


Valentina R.
Valentina R.2 years ago

Beautiful. Love snow.

Sara Marr
Sara Marr2 years ago

cool!!! it would be inspiring to see his art in person or inside a gallery style book.