Slush the Magic Dragon
Ryan Olszowy '02 and brothers Max '06 and Luke Dehtiar '04 didn't think they had a snowball's chance of winning the 2009 US Nationals Snow Sculpting Competition. The three Tech grads—all engineers—were pitted against professional snow artistes from throughout the nation. True, the trio had twice before tasted the ice wine of snow-statue victory: their First-Year Experience diorama of Ares, the Greek god of war, took the blue ribbon in its division during Winter Carnival 2001, as did their gothic French cathedral in 2002. But, when they saw their competitors' intricate artwork, replete with "negative space," they concluded that an also-ran finish was inevitable.
However, the sun shone down on the team from Michigan, and their "Dragon's Den" entry snatched victory from the fiery jaws of defeat.
"The weather was terrible," said Olszowy. For the last 15 hours of the 73-hour event, the carvers fought ice-melting temps of 55 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit. "Any sculpture that had something delicate or intricate started to lose it. Throughout the night, statues were falling to the ground. It was really sad."
Steeled with an icy resolve, the Tech grads drew on a basic statue-building technique honed during pre-dawn statue construction at their alma mater.
"We got together and said, 'Nobody is going to out-slush us,'" said Olszowy. "The weather played to our strength. No one else knew how to slush things back together the way we did."
"Michigan Tech prepared us for that," said Max Dehtiar. "We had to change from carving dry snow to rebuilding what the sun was taking away."
So, mixing a mortar of sub-freezing snow and near-freezing water, they patched together their sculpture, an original design of a mother dragon jealously guarding her eggs.
"We had to put it back together three times, but it was enough," Olszowy said. "Artistically it didn't look that great, but we won people's choice, as well as winning first place.
"It was nice," he smiles, "even though we felt like we cheated because we know how to slush."
The 2009 US National Snow Sculpting Competition was held in February in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Left to right, Ryan Olszowy ’02 Mechanical Engineering, Max Dehtiar ’06 Chemical Engineering, and Luke Dehtiar ’04 Environmental Engineering had previously competed in three Michigan Snow Sculpting competitions, winning in February 2008 and qualifying for the nationals in 2009.
They faced seasoned competitors from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Alaska, among others. Nevertheless, the US National Snow Carving Grand Championship was awarded to three self-described “artistically challenged” engineers. “We were three very proud Huskies,” Olszowy said. They look forward to an invitation to international competition, as well as defending their state and national titles for as many years as their frozen fingers allow.