On frozen lakes and snow-covered fields in Canada's wilds, magnificent geometric formations have suddenly appeared — the work of a retired headmaster stomping around in snowshoes to beat back pandemic blues.
"I start with a shape — a hexagon, a square or a triangle — and draw lines through it or intersecting circles," Kim Asmussen said in a telephone interview.
The 62-year-old spends a lot of time tinkering with sketches in advance, he told AFP, "because once you've made a mark in the snow you can't erase it. It's not like drawing on a piece of paper.
"The biggest part," he explained, "is just figuring out how we're gonna go about walking it. You have to go back and forth quite a bit to pack the snow."
He started last year and has made 20 snowshoe artworks in and around the town of Schreiber, Ontario, about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) northwest of Toronto on the shores of Lake Superior, which he photographs using drones and posts online.
The largest measures about 400 meters long.
Compass, rope, friends
Asmussen said he uses drafting software to create designs and mapping tools to scope out suitable locations to use as canvasses.
Then with a compass, a rope for measuring and a team of friends or local students, he sets about stamping out shapes in the snow, which can take up to three days depending on their size and intricacy.
"There aren't many fields in town, but there're lots of [frozen] lakes around here," he said.
Asmussen said he got the idea while researching snow sculptures online and landed on snowshoe art by acclaimed artist Simon Beck, whose works have graced the mountainsides of Banff National Park, including a giant snowflake, a wolf and a maple leaf.
"It's just starting to take off," said Asmussen, who hopes to popularize the method.
"I thought to myself, maybe I can do that too," he said, adding that it helps keep his mind sharp while getting a bit of fresh air.
Sunny holiday substitute
Several friends who were prevented from taking their usual winter holidays in sunbelts this year because of travel restrictions volunteered to help.
Asmussen said he'd like to involve more people to help pack the snow, but local pandemic restrictions in place since December permit only a maximum of five to gather in groups outside.
He is looking to involve more schools and set up a snowshoe art festival and is scouting locations near the TransCanada Highway to showcase artworks to passing truckers and tourists.
Ideally, he said, there needs to be 15 to 30 centimeters (6 to 12 inches) of fresh snow in which to mark out a design. Most last only a few days before being covered up by the next snowfall.
"I kind of like when it does snow right after [making a formation]," he said, "because you've got this new blanket of the snow and you can do it all over again."