Simon Beck spends a lot of his time with snowshoes strapped to his feet, clomping in circles through powder. It’s much more than a futile exercise—it’s art.
“My parents are quite proud that finally, in middle-age, I’ve accomplished something,” says the 57-year-old British artist. Beck’s achievements take the form of painstakingly detailed fractals and mandalas spanning over 300 square feet. It’s his job to travel to some of the world’s most beautiful places in search of, as he puts it, “the canvas of white and expansive.”
Beck used to make orienteering maps, so his cartography and surveying skills came in handy 10 years ago when he started mapping out the snowshoe designs, initially as a form of exercise. Now he does 30 snow murals in a season and estimates that he’s done 210 in his lifetime.
His creations are gone with the next snowfall. The longest one of his works has lasted—a mandala in the French Alps—was eight weeks. But Beck doesn’t mind as long as he can secure a photograph (ten years’ of which can be found in his 2014 book Simon Beck: Snow Art).
Outside spoke to Beck just before his second trip to Utah’s Powder Mountain (and his second time setting foot on U.S. snow), where he created the largest snow mandala made by a single person.
Photo: Although Beck requires relatively minimal equipment—snowshoes and an orienteering compass—he faces a host of potential obstacles from the elements. “Wind can destroy a drawing,” he says. “My feet get cold. Sometimes I get sunburned. The best conditions are -5 to -10 degrees, and powder snow.”