Since the winter of 2004, visitors to Les Arcs ski resort in the French Alps have woken up to find sprawling snow patterns that have a strange resemblance to crop circles. The prints stretch across otherwise untrammelled hillsides and the depressions left by frozen lakes. They are trippy and exact enough to give the impression that a horde of aliens landed in the powder the night before for a little snow-stomping debauchery. The truth is, all of these designs come from a very focused 54-year-old Brit who heads out for marathon snowshoeing sessions. He carries a clothesline, measuring tape, an orienteering compass, a camera, a change of clothes, a head lamp, and a pretty clear picture of what's to come.
His name is Simon Beck, and he's an orienteering mapmaker from Southern England who owns an apartment at the resort. He trudged through his first design on Christmas 2004 because, "It just seemed a natural thing to do." Without snowshoes, he stepped out a five-pointed star with circles. After the snow covered that design, he trudged out a larger 10-pointed star. Soon after, he found a frozen lake where he could make an even bigger design, but the snow was too deep. He went out and bought snowshoes, and found a comfort level that has led him to stamp out bigger and more intricate patterns.