Arc de Triomphe snow sculpture winter beater

Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.ccom

GRAVENHURST — Andrey Pitrov has never been to Paris or seen the Arc de Triomphe in person.

Snow artist Andrey Pitrov and wife Caroline and son Nikola smile in front of the finished product Saturday afternoon following the five-hour carving spree.

But he’s got a miniature replica the size of your hand.

It was enough to duplicate the French landmark in a snow.

He was among a half dozen winter enthusiasts who carved out a niche for themselves at Gull Lake Rotary Park Saturday during the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival.

While polar bear dippers were testing the waters just off shore in Gull Lake, and cars were racing around an icy road further out, spent from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with his saw and bare hands creating his masterpiece.

It’s no mean feat indeed.

His son Nikoka, two, played nearby on the mountain of snow piled in ballfield, while dad created his masterwork just behind second base, while mom Carline provided food, hot drinks, “moral support” — and D90 Nikon camera.

“The first (digital SLR) with video,” she said proudly.

It’s about winter, the parents said.

“Get out and enjoy it and not be inside,” said Carline.

The stay-at-home dad and mom who works at Sobeys moved to Gravenhurst about four years ago, from Kirkland Lake.

That’s where they got their first taste of ice and snow sculpture building.

And they brought their artistry with them.

Their Hotchkiss Street frontyard has seen similar amazing creations.

And nothing simple: the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square; and the Notre Dame Catholic Church, also in Paris.

Both drew a ton of praise and admiration from passersby.

So why the love affair, again, with France?

Well, it has to do with what he has to work with.

The family came by late in the week to see what they had to work with, before going home and deciding to use the little white miniature and building it to a scale that is like millionth to one.

“It was the shape of the block of snow,” said Pitrov.

It was the perfect shape for the Arc de Triomphe.

And, the snow left Carnival organizers, had very little grass pieces stuck in it — and more importantly not a lot of icy pieces that could potentially get in the way of his intricate artistry.

Saturday morning, in a cool start, he began roughing and shaping the eight-foot-tall rectangle.

He scored the basic parameters to make sure when he really got to work he wouldn’t end up off scale.

He even lightened the top, digging out about two feet to make sure it wouldn’t collapse on people walking through the archway.

Then is was down to all the detailed handwork, in which you can make out people standing and sitting in his handy relief work, beautifully carved and which look easily recognizable even from a distance.

Then there is all the buttressing around the top and sides.

Call it a labour of love.

His should be a winner at Sunday night’s Carnival awards and volunteer appreciation dinner at the Boston Pizza.

One other one next to it, was also well done.

The snow sculpture contest was organized by Steve Muloch, a local snow contractor who knows a lot about shovelling snow around town. He build a great ox, complete with wooden antlers, but he wasn’t in the contest.

See more Winter Carnival photos, including the doggie dash and donut eating at Muskoka TODAY’s new Flick’r photo site on the home page.

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