A snowy stage takes shape 

Theatre of ice and snow sculpted on the shore of Lost Lake Park



While skiers and snowboarders have been eyeing the skies looking out for the next big dump of snow, there's another group of visitors who are just as anxious about Ullr's mood.

Snow sculptor Carl Schlicting and his team arrived in Whistler last week to begin building the stage of ice and snow for the Olympic performance of NiX along the shore of Lost Lake. By Friday morning, Mother Nature had been kind to the crew, offering up a bounty of snow and nice, cold conditions. But the weekend forecast was not so favourable, calling for rain and warmer temperatures.

Mid-afternoon, rain had just started to fall on the site.

"It's nice for building, it's perfect, because you can just get a tighter pack," he explained with a shrug.

A little bit of rain isn't enough to dampen this crew's spirits. This is the third time they've created the NiX set - once was a few years ago here in Whistler, when the performance was first being workshopped, and the second time was last year at the outdoor rink at Olympic Plaza in Calgary, when the production had it's first full, five-week run.

As Schlicting describes it, that Calgary debut was a "nightmare."

"In Calgary, we had days of plus-10 and you just prayed by show time that it was going to be colder, and it almost always was."

On top of the wildly fluctuating temperatures, the crew was working with "shitty" snow plowed into a rink from a parking lot, so they had to over veneer the entire set with thin slabs of clean, white snow, all while protecting the ice components of the set from warm daytime temperatures with insulated tarps.

"The re-setters had to do these very thin skins over top of the sets that were hidden. That was a challenge, because once you cut snow down to an inch and a half thickness, if its warm, it has no strength."

To top things off, for the first time in 20 years, the rink actually malfunctioned and melted.

"Calgary went nuts with not only meltdowns, but serious deep freezes," he chuckled, gazing skyward.

The troubles didn't stop even when the production was finished. When it was time to pack up, the crew went to extract the structural equipment, wiring and lighting fixtures buried beneath the snow, but they had been solidly frozen in place by a sudden deep freeze.

Now, Schlicting and his crew are hoping to work with the many lessons they learned in Calgary and pull off the second run of NiX without a hitch.

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