British-born snowshoe artist Simon Beck's first assignment in North America started with an Icebreaker hoody I received in the mail. The front of the hoody features geometric patterns designed after Beck’s art, which is legendary throughout Europe's ski resorts. I thought "Who IS this guy?" After contacting him on Facebook, I reached out to Banff Lake Louise Tourism and they agreed to facilitate Simon's visit to Canada. Simon Beck is an extraordinary individual who has found his place in the world by speaking "snowshoe." According to one of our photographers on the ground, "watching him at work is to bear witness to an astonishing contest—a tiny human against massive, indifferent nature."
Captions and photos by George Webber
“Here, Simon is translating from his sketch. Is there a place for this design, inspired by a snowflake, in the real world? A design that will eventually exceed the span of several football fields?”
“The big thrill of this assignment was being part of history. This was the largest commission Simon’s ever undertaken and his first in North America. I even did some of the stomping on it, helping out with the shading. I had a chance to interact with a significant artist, an innovative artist, a creator of a new form. I’ve never met or photographed anyone like Simon Beck.”
“There is something sensual and mysterious about what Simon does. It was interesting for me as a photographer to observe this combination of intuition and precision. He is highly attuned to natural design but he filters this reverence through an engineer’s technical eye. That’s a powerful thing.”
“Simon’s movements were almost robotic. He went on and on. Then he would come to the shore of the frozen lake to check in and I was amazed because even after two or more hours at this pace, his breathing would be steady and even—as if he’d been sitting at a table having a cup of tea. Most of us would have been gasping for breath. He bought bananas in large quantities over the weekend when I was with him. They were his rocket fuel, his super food.”
“Simon is a tiny, poignant figure challenging a vast, indifferent landscape. It’s an astonishing contest. Seeing him up against the elements is so unbelievable, it almost makes you laugh. But then your laugh catches in your throat and is replaced with admiration.” (Peyto Lake, Banff National Park)
“The day-to-day world is probably a tight fit for Simon. The wider world fits him comfortably. His foot doesn’t fit in a brogue but rather here, in his red snowshoes on the fresh, soft-blown snow of Peyto Lake in Banff National Park.”
Simon Beck, in conversation with Toque & Canoe: “My parents are glad I have finally made something of my life. I don’t have any friends other than the people I know in Les Arcs (a ski resort in France) where I live. They see my drawings and they love them. They probably think I am a bit mad, but then one has to step outside the ordinary if one wants to achieve something out of the ordinary.”
Photo by Luke Sudermann courtesy Sunshine Village.
Photo by Chris Moseley courtesy Lake Louise Ski Resort.
“Simon surveys a site for a potential drawing. He drinks in the landscape, weighing the possibilities of his snowy canvas. The mountains surrounding his eventual drawing at Peyto Lake would make an exquisite frame.