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How an Ontario man brings towering snow sculptures to life each winter

When other artists set out to create their masterpieces, they hope their art will be seen for many years. But not Matt Morris: the Waterloo, Ont., snow sculptor can only keep his fingers crossed as to how long his creations may stand.

“I learned early that snow sculpting is unlike many other pastimes because you have to watch the weather, and then it’s usually unexpected,” Morris explained. “You have to pounce when there’s an opportunity.”

On Tuesday night, he worked quickly to create an eight-foot tower on his front lawn, knowing that rain was in the forecast.

“I carved it last night and it stood for one night and then it started to lean this morning,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “And so I cut it off so that it wouldn’t crash onto the sidewalk.”

Despite the fleeting moments he had to build his piece, he still finds solace in his work.

“I got some nice pictures and some videos and had some great conversations while I was building it, so it was still a fun time,” he said.

The former educator has been honing his craft for over a decade now, initially inspired by a trip to the museum.

“My wife Lorna and I were in a museum, and we walked around the corner, and there was a 12-foot Moai from the island of Rapa Nui, sometimes known as Easter Island,” he recalled. “I looked at it and I said, ‘Lorna, we should make one of these on our front lawn next winter,’ and so we did.”

But it was not easy rolling gigantic snowballs and placing them atop each other.

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“It was so much work, hard on the back,” he explained. “I said, there’s got to be a better way. And that began my investigations into snow sculpting.”

But you won’t see snow sculpturing offered in course catalogues at your local community college, so how does one learn to carve out massive feet or former Toronto Raptor Pascal Siakim?

“The internet made it easy to connect with some of the great carvers in the world,” Morris explained.

It was there that about a decade ago he also discovered that some of the world’s best were going to be at an event in Banff, which he was able to attend with the missus.

“We hung out with the pro carvers for three days and the neat thing was it was -20 C the whole time,” he said. “So we were almost the only people watching them carve, and they took us under their wing.”

That experience and Morris’ background as a teacher make him a great educator for others as he has about 30 free videos on his website which offer tips and tricks for those who are interested in developing their skills.

He is also scheduled to appear at Winterloo in Uptown on Saturday, where he is scheduled to create a giant sculpture, though Thursday’s rains place that in question.

“I ran by the site (Wednesday), and there’s lots of heavy packing snow. We’ll see what the rain does (Thursday), though,” he said. “We might be able to build something, but even without snow sculpting, there’s lots of other events, from snow dogs, to ice carving, to chilli cookoffs — a real mix of fun activities in Uptown Waterloo this Saturday.”

A year ago, he teamed up with kids who were in attendance to build a whole lot of somethings.

“We set an aggressive goal of making 100 gnomes there,” he explained. “And in the end, the community together made 215. And we put them on display all through the Uptown of Waterloo and put lights in them at night. It was a really fun time. We lift each one up into the air and announced its usually crazy name that the kid had come up with, so that was a lot of fun.”

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