Introduction: San Diego "Snow" Castles

About: I love to do anything involving crafting things. Some of my greatest projects have been in metalworking and woodworking, but I'm always trying new things! I spend a lot of time in the garage, but not much of t…

        Down in San Diego, California, when the weather gets cold, we San Diegans don't just curl up by the fire and sip hot chocolate, we brave the elements and seek adventure! We bundle up fight the bone-chilling 70 degree weather just for an opportunity to partake in a glorious family tradition: the making of San Diego "Snow" Castles. 

        These monstrous "snow" sculptures aren't very difficult to make, and prove to be worth the effort when your castle becomes the envy of the bea- I mean "snow drift", and people ask you if they can take pictures with it. That's the payoff- knowing that you're better than everyone else! Muahahahahahahah!

        *Ahem* well, anyway, for those with access to any type of San Diego "snow" or even actual snow, this project is easy and fun for the whole family (and random people that want to help you, just to take partial credit)!

~Note~ There are several castles that were involved in the making of this Instructable and some steps will involve pictures of one castle or the other. For my purposes, just imagine that they are one castle in order for it all to make sense. 

~Also!~ I'm not totally done with this Instructable, I'm still adding lots of things (including pictures, and lots of them!) Please comment and tell me what I could do better!

Step 1: Tools Needed

        For these "Snow" Castles to work, you only really need a few necessities, most of which aren't very hard to acquire. 

They are:
-The bottom forms
        -We use tar paper sheets, which are strong and long enough for the bottom two forms
        -A good tar paper form should fully overlap itself circumference-wise about two times around for
          proper strength

-The top form
        -We use a five-gallon bucket with the bottom cut out, but anything round that is open topped and
          open bottomed and slightly flared will do

-Clamps to hold the forms together
       -Three to four per tier you intend on doing
       -Any clamps will work: bar clamps, c-clamps, locking clamps

    -Shovels (flat and round)
        -Bring at least one shovel per two people for MAXIMUM POWER!! 
        -Flat shovels work great for removing large chunks of "snow" from the sculpture

        -Just for hauling water to your forms

-Sculpting tools
        -Personally, I bought a pottery tools kit to use, the potter's rib is especially great for awesome
        -Forks, knives, and spoons make nice patterns and work fairly well for general shaping (as well as
          keeping the little ones busy making "windows")
        -If available, sand toys work fantastically for mild sculptage

-Some sort of small inner diameter hose, roughly 1.5' long
        -Very helpful for blowing off little bits of "snow" that end up in all the little corners that they don't
          belong in

Step 2: Find Some Nice "Snow"

        It's all about location, location, location! 

        The prime spot is where the "snow" is just wet enough to hold itself in shape, but not so wet that it just gloops out of your hand. This tends to be right on the edge of where people like to set up their chairs.

        You must make sure that the rising tide will not get anywhere near your castle as the day goes on, if it does, I hereby waive all claims of property damage to your castle. You have been warned.

Step 3: Lay, Fill, and Stamp the Forms

       After locating the perfect real estate, take your bottom form and lay it out. For tar paper, you just make a large circle small enough for your paper to wrap around two full times, or else it will not be strong enough to hold in the "snow" later. After the full circle is made, use your clamps to hold the top and bottom loose edges of your tar paper.

        After laying the first form, begin filling it with "snow". As some are filling the form, have others taking your buckets and filling them with water. Every time another 3 inches is added to the level inside the form, cover that entire surface with water, then have some begin packing the "snow" down. The more water and more packed, the better, as it strengthens the structure later. Continue until the form is full.

        Continue to add tiers until you are satisfied with the height of your structure.

Step 4: Get Inspired!

        Before you begin to sculpt, get some ideas on what you want to create. Your original design never really forms as you intended, but often morphs into something a lot cooler! Take a look at some other "snow" castles online, or pictures of actual castles. Or even sculpt something not castle...ish! This is a really cool website with lots of really well done sculptures. Not many castles though...

Step 5: Remove Forms and Sculpt (One at a Time!)

        Now that your forms are securely packed and formed, you must expose the castle inside. It's hiding in there somewhere, just find it- quickly!

        You can now gingerly remove the top form and begin to sculpt the top only. Do not remove any other forms until the tier you have exposed is almost completely sculpted! If you do, the castle is prone to collapse and dump loose dirt all over your other complete portions, which makes me sad. If you like to frustrate yourself, then I guess removing all the forms at once would be fine. Just kidding, don't! It's a bad idea. Trust me. 

        After sculpting the top tier, you can then remove your second form, and repeat the process until finished!

Some sculpting tips:
     -Use the flat shovel to remove large chunks before anything else. On the top tier, it may not be as
       necessary, but later on, it helps a lot!

     -When cutting an overhang, take into account the strength of the "snow" above it! A good overhang
       is impressive, but must be approached with caution!

     -Begin using the larger tools first, and move on to smaller tools later, as small tools remove less
       material and are more precise

Step 6: Pose and Basque in the Glory

        Now it's time to take a step back and enjoy your creation, as well as the adoration of complete strangers. It's surprising what size of crowds are attracted to these massive "snow" sculptures, despite the freezing winds and harsh outside conditions.

        After the construction of your San Diego "Snow" Castle, you should definitely feel accomplished. Now it is OK to go curl up by the fire with your blanket and hot chocolate, go ahead, you will have earned it.

Snow Challenge

Finalist in the
Snow Challenge