Snow Sculpting

By Margaret Downing


Andy Skupien and snow sculpting buddy Nate Branch both grew up in Roscoe and are long time pals who have a penchant and talent for snow sculpting.

Skupien says, “My six brothers and I grew up and were raised in Roscoe. I am the youngest and growing up I watched three of my older brothers, Steve, John and Dave, do some phenomenal sculpting. It got me hooked! Then, at Hononegah High School, I became more involved, as they offered it there.”

The school still offers it and holds a yearly event. Skupien also helps mentor a team from the school each year.

He explains that his other three brothers, Tom, Mike and Dan don’t carve.

Branch and Skupien, along with another teammate, Sable Matula, a native of Rockton, call themselves the “Slacktastic 4,” as Branch “is a large guy, so he counts as two people,” Skupien explained. “I was always a big super heroes fan, and people actually never saw us working, that’s where the ‘slack’ word comes in.”

No power tools are used in these endeavors, “We use vintage tools, such as two 1800s slightly altered logging saws, homemade chisels, and curry combs are used for sanding. We do a drawing and a model every year before our various events…it helps with proportions! We’ve been competing in the yearly state competitions at Sinnissippi in Rockford for 16 years, and five years in national competition in Lake Geneva.”

Last winter, Branch and Skupien carved the “entrance block” at the entry to the contest in Lake Geneva for the national competition for the fifth year in a row.

Branch and Skupien are excited about an upcoming international competition to be held in January in Grindelwald, Switzerland, in which they will participate.

Skupien noted, “We have been asked to fill in on the USA team for two members who can’t make it…so we are joining Team USA for one competition. Last year there were 10 international teams competing.

“It will be a heck of a learning experience for us. We’ll have a ‘back seat’ role and the goal for us is to learn. We’ll be carving on a frozen lake. The challenge is we will be dealing with a 10x10x10 block of ice!”

At state competitions, snow is brought in and sculpting is done on a 10-foot tall, six-foot wide, six-foot depth block.

Getting to Grindelwald will involve flying out of O’Hare Airport to Ireland, then to Zurich, Switzerland and then a three-hour train ride to Grindelwald in the Bernese Alps.

The Grindelwald Winter Snow Festival, 2017, is tentatively set for Jan. 16-20, and information from a website notes, “Every year for over 20 years when the temperature drops far beyond zero, sculptors from all over the world gather in Grindelwald, near Interlaken Swiss.

“The sculptors, locals and guests are busy with a unique creation, in a magnificent festival, environmental sculpturing in ice. During the six days of the festival, the streets of the snowy town turn into a charmed museum. The temporary creations decorate every corner in town. Until the ice melts, the white statues create an unforgettable esthetic experience for both local residents and tourists.”

The two men are hoping to raise some funds to help with the trip to Europe, which can be reached by going to More information can also be found on Facebook listed under “Slacktastic4.”


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