WATERVILLE — A three-woman snow sculpting team is set to represent Maine at the 29th U.S. National Snow Sculpting competition that’s scheduled to be held next year in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Serena Sanborne, 48, of Winslow; Phoebe Sanborne, 40, of Madison; and Desiree DuBois, 42, of Unity, will participate as the only women’s team in a male-dominated sport, Serena Sanborne said.

They are “The Chickadees.”

“We are excited to be the only women at the event,” she said.

The contest comprises 15 three-member teams from all over the country. Teams may sculpt a figure of their choice during the four-day competition that runs Jan. 31 through Feb. 4. During that time, the teams will work for eight hours and through the night on Feb. 3, stopping at noon on Feb. 4.

As a part of Lake Geneva’s Winterfest, the public sport is watched by more than 40,000 people each year. “Thousands of people want to interact with you during the nationals,” said Serena Sanborne, the team’s captain and the competition’s sole female captain.


“I started sculpting 10 years ago because I love all art forms,” she said. “I think we all love different art forms and that’s what brings us together.”

Phoebe Sanborne, left, and Serena Sanborne laugh Thursday during practice in Winslow as they prepare to represent Maine at the 29th U.S. National Snow Sculpting competition that’s scheduled to be held next year in Lake Geneva, Wis. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

An ode to the state bird of Maine, the trio drew inspiration from chickadees. For them, it was all about depicting the bird’s curiosity, playfulness and resilient nature.

Serena Sanborne, a full-time manager of outreach and community partnerships at Waterville Creates!, has been in the snow sculpting business for a decade now, having previously been a member of “The Carvivores” team in 2019. Awareness around the art form has changed over the couple of years and not many people were aware of snow sculpting at all, she said.

“I’m excited about discovering the challenges and tribulations leading up to it (the competition),” said Desiree DuBois.

It will also be her second year participating in the event. An artist and a nail technician, DuBois has been trying to mentally prepare herself for the challenge by practicing yoga.

The physical and mental exhaustion, however, is not the only challenge the women are up against. “Our fourth team member is Mother Nature,” Serena Sanborne said.


A bunny rabbit snow sculpture made by the central Maine team “The Chickadees” is seen during a previous competition. Serena Sanborne, the team’s captain and the competition’s sole female captain, looks on. Photo courtesy of Serena Sanborne

For the most part, the weather needs to cooperate in order for the participants to build the structure but sometimes, too much sunlight or too little snow can make or break an entire team’s effort. But when it gets too cold, reducing the time spent on forming the structure and navigating through the cold efficiently is another task.

“Some people run marathons,” said Phoebe Sanborne. “This is ours.”

Though only seasonal, snow sculpting has been quite a hobby for many in the state and the country.

“You can’t really practice it (snow sculpting) until you’re in the season,” Serena Sanborne said. “The number of times we’ve actually sculpted our own is only a handful of times.”

Phoebe Sanborne, an administrative coordinator at Waterville Creates! and Serena Sanborne’s sister, mentions how sculpting is a process of relearning the skills each year to perfect the art form in winter.

“It’s hard to stay in practice when the thing that you’re working with is only in winter or maybe once or twice a year,” she said.


Serena Sanborne recalls how from the very first sculpture she created with her friend in New Hampshire a decade ago got her hooked onto the art form. Her sister, Phoebe, was influenced by her efforts and dedication toward the sport over the years.

This year, the trio will sculpt “Artemis,” the Greek pantheon, during the nationals.

A sculpture of Artemis, a Greek goddess, is being carved Thursday in Winslow. Using clay, a three-woman team works on getting the scale correct and discussing potential scenarios they might face at the 29th U.S National Snow Sculpting competition that’s scheduled to be held next year in Lake Geneva, Wis. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

“She represents womanhood and strength,” Serena Sanborne said.

“We wanted to sculpt a figure that was something more meaningful and resonated with us,” Phoebe Sanborne added.

But that’s not all. The figure will consist of a bow and arrow, giving the team a lot more room to work with, Phoebe Sanborne said. The Greek goddess fascinated the trio because NASA’s mission to the moon in 2024 is called Artemis. The structure, in itself, represents all things strength, they said.

The magic lies in the finishing touches, Serena Sanborne said. With hours of practice beforehand, the trio aims to keep up with the physical demands in the weeks leading up to the competition.


“It teaches you a lot about your physical strength and mental fortitude,” Serena Sanborne said.

For the Chickadees, it’s also a way of making a statement.

“It’s brave to be an artist and a female artist,” DuBois said. “It’s even braver to be a female artist in a male-dominated environment with negative 50-degree temperatures.”

As they prepare for the weeks ahead, the team’s progress can be tracked on their official Facebook page. The page also has a link to their GoFundme page, where donations made will be used toward the purchase of tickets to and from Wisconsin, essential gear for the cold weather, and necessary tools for their sculpting kit.

“We’re excited for the nationals next year,” Serena said. “The shared experience is rewarding in itself.”

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