Professional snow carving is a challenge I really enjoy doing during the Ely Winter Festival,  which is always held in February. Several of the past 17 years I’ve been professionally carving it has been below O° Fahrenheit outside. One year, pictured here, it was -31° most of time we were out. Enjoying the outdoors in that kind of weather requires good clothes. As you can see we rely heavily on polyester and soft, fluffy fleece. It is a wonder fabric that every winter enthusiast cherishes. Our hats, scarves, vests, shirts, pants, glove liners, long underwear and even my face mask are made of the stuff. Now with an allergy to polyester, which is what fleece is made of, I approach this year’s snow carving with angst. My arsenal against the cold has been stripped away.

In my experience, cotton is okay, but requires several layers for warmth and once it gets sweaty its not so great. Believe it or not we sweat even in -35° weather. Silk is great, but never seems thick enough to cut the wind. Sheep’s wool is good, but ITCHY – given my scratchy journey to deal with this allergy I don’t need anymore of that. Marino wool is great, but I have not acquired quite enough of that yet, or maybe I need it to be thicker. Moose hide mittens have been strongly recommended with a wool liner. I have a pair I have had for years but have not worn much yet because they are so stiff I can’t grab the tools well. This is the year to break them in. I’ll be relying on a combination of all the things I listed this year.

What it comes down to is going back to the days of so many layers you can’t move – just like that kid in the Christmas Story movie. He was so bundled by his mom that when he fell over outside in the snow he couldn’t get up. Snow carving requires flexibility as you crawl up and down ladders, around an 8′ cube of snow and chipping away at it in awkward positions. In the “carving in progress” you see pictured, I’m the carver standing on the lower level, which is 5′ up. We built our carving up to be 11′ tall that year. It is the figure skater you see pictured below.

On carving day I know I’ll lay every option out before me and most likely stare at it for some time pondering each combination of things. Then, once I’ve decided what to wear, by that time I’ll have changed at least four times, I’ll pack the rest of it up in a bag and bring it with me just in case I didn’t figure it out right. My theory is, that when it comes to cold weather, it is always better to bring more than you need.

We start carving Thursday morning and are generally done by Saturday evening. The temperatures are predicted to range from 2° to 7°The during the day and dropping to -22° at night. I’ll let you know how it works out for me after this weekend.

To see more of my snow carvings over the years go to  Nancy’s Snow Carvings