Northern Wilds Magazine
After completing his first couple of snowshoe art designs, Kim Asmussen deployed a drone to capture an aerial photograph of the finished artwork. This piece is titled “Gichi-Gami’s Gateway.” | SUBMITTED

The Snowshoe Art Guy: How Kim Asmussen Brings Winter to Life

As winter tightens its icy grip on the northern landscape, many Minnesotans and Canadians are busy digging out knitting needles, XC skis, woodworking tools, ice fishing gear, or finalizing their winter reading list. In the frigid northern regions of Minnesota and Canada, winter tends to feel less like a temporary season and more like a way of life. To survive the lengthy gray months, one must find a hobby (or two) to keep your mind and hands busy.

Ontario resident Kim Asmussen prepares for the long winter months by booting up his AutoCAD software and ensuring his chainsaw and snowshoes are in tip-top shape. Asmussen lives in Schreiber, a small town of approximately 1,100 people along the Canadian ‘North Shore’ of Lake Superior. Over the last few years, Asmussen’s winter hobbies of ice sculpting and snowshoe art have drawn regional and international attention to the small Canadian town, earning him the title of ‘Snowshoe Art Guy’ or ‘The Ice Man of Schreiber.’

Asmussen, a retired principal, has dabbled in woodworking and ice sculpting for many years. However, it wasn’t until the onset of the covid-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020 that he strapped on snowshoes and ventured out to the ballfield near his home to create beautiful and elaborate designs in the snow. His inspiration to expand his winter hobbies stemmed from Simon Beck, an internationally recognized snowshoe artist from England known for creating math-based snowshoe art.

Kim Asmussen of Schreiber with his creation, Sitting Santa, a life-sized replica of Old Saint Nick. | SUBMITTED

“I looked at it and said, you know what, I think I could do that,” Asmussen said. “So, I took a crack at it and started liking it.”

He found geometric designs and patterns online and used AutoCAD, a 2D and 3D computer-aided design software, to mathematically map out the real-life dimensions of the design. Then, with his trusty metal snowshoes, 300-foot tape measure, a handful of 3-foot dowels to mark his points, and a good old-fashioned compass, he took to the ballfield.

While he initially embarked on crafting snowshoe art as a way to stay mentally and physically active during the pandemic, as word spread through Schreiber, it quickly evolved into much more than that. After completing his first couple of snowshoe art designs, Asmussen deployed a drone to capture an aerial photograph of the finished artwork. It wasn’t long before he started sharing these images on his personal Facebook page and various Facebook groups, such as North Shore Vibe. As time passed, he gathered a growing audience of snowshoe art admirers and began developing a unique avenue for connecting with others.

“It’s rewarding just knowing people are enjoying seeing it,” Asmussen said. “That’s basically my motivation to it now more than anything.”

While he enjoys and welcomes the help of willing volunteers, now and then, Asmussen will create a design from start to finish by himself. |SUBMITTED

As pandemic restrictions loosened and the popularity of his snowshoe art spread, retirees and outdoor enthusiasts eagerly stepped forward with snowshoes in hand to volunteer in the design’s creation. Volunteers receive specific snowshoe ‘packing’ instructions based on Asmussen’s desired pattern. “I try to get it laid out ahead of time and then give them directions about where to walk and what to do,” he said. “I like the social aspect of when you’re doing it with other people. You crisscross and stop and talk to them for a while, then keep on going.”

Although Asmussen receives plenty of eager volunteers, creating snowshoe art relies on the precise alignment of winter conditions, including temperature, minimal wind, and plenty of sunlight. And as many northern folks know, the sun can be hard to come by in the winter months. Once conditions align, which can take weeks, Asmussen makes a few phone calls to friends and volunteers and immediately heads to the intended location.

“To get a good picture, you need the sunlight,” Asmussen said. As his primary motivation is to share the aerial image to motivate and inspire others to embrace the winter season while showcasing the natural beauty of his northern Lake Superior town, sunlight makes all the difference. “There’s no way to do it if you’re not going to get a good picture.”

While he enjoys and welcomes the help of willing volunteers, now and then, Asmussen will create a design from start to finish by himself. Late last winter, he ventured beyond his neighborhood ballfield to a nearby frozen lake to create a truly stunning elaborate design of a moose, titled “Moose on the Loose by the Hungry Moose,” a play on the restaurant across the street called The Hungry Moose.

Asmussen created this design on his own, titled “Moose on the Loose by the Hungry Moose.” | SUBMITTED

“That was a big one,” he said. “I ended up doing it myself.” In between moments of sunshine and ideal snowshoe art conditions, Asmussen sets his snowshoes aside and picks up his chainsaw and chisels to create festive ice sculptures. During recent winter seasons, he launched Schreiber’s Sidewalk Sculptures, featuring various creative icy designs around town. Among these creations was the charming Sitting Santa, which proudly sat beside the town sign.

Although Asmussen said he has a handful of snowshoe art designs in his queue for the 2024 winter, he wasn’t ready to spill the beans on what they would be. However, he said he always starts the snowshoe art season with a snowflake design. And if you keep a close eye on his designs, he likes to incorporate a signature snowflake in every design.

As a retired principal in a small Canadian town, Asmussen occasionally fills in as the substitute principal when needed. However, last year, during February and March, he humorously advised the school to “not call me unless it’s an emergency.” On sunny days in Schreiber, you can assume that Asmussen will be found on a ballfield or a frozen lake, enjoying his winter hobby and sharing his passion with others.

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