Eric and Amy Watterson Flygare didn’t necessarily want to gain any notoriety by tromping through the snow in a field off U.S. Highway 89 near Franklin Basin on Saturday.
“This is all so embarrassing,” Eric said. “We were just out for a stroll. We didn’t want attention.”
Despite Eric’s protestations, however, the couple wasn’t just ambling — they crafted a geometric pinwheel with a 300-foot diameter in the field with careful measurements and a couple pairs of borrowed snowshoes.
“We were just over three hours, probably, and we were both pretty wrecked by the time we were done,” Amy said. “It was a pretty good workout.”
The complex artistic pattern they created by walking with snowshoes in the field, however, caught the eyes of passing motorists — as well as photographers.
Herald Journal photographer Eli Lucero spotted it on Sunday and took a photo with his aerial drone. After a couple of fruitless calls to property owners in the area Monday, The Herald Journal posted the photo on social media asking if anyone knew the artists.
It wasn’t long before someone gave the Flygares up. Meanwhile, hundreds of people had shared the image, commented on it or both.
“We got to see this on Saturday,” Diana Hadley commented. “So Stunning!!”
Others made jokes about aliens. Greg Nichols commented it “would be really cool if a monolith was in the center,” a reference to the mysterious metal object that appeared in the Southern Utah desert in November and captured international headlines and spawned imitators.
Several people drew parallels between the spiraling snow art and crop circles, two of which famously spelled the names “Mike” and “Joe” in Cache Valley in 1997. Eric said he and Amy joked about crop circles while they were snowshoeing.
The Flygares were inspired by Simon Beck, a British catographer-turned-artist known for tromping massive geometric patterns into snow fields. They first saw Beck’s work during in the 2019 Banff Mountain Film Festival.
“We loved it,” Eric said. “It’s just cool to see those huge pieces of art, and we were like, ‘One day we should try that.’”
When dismal snowpack and aggressive avalanche conditions this season stymied the couple’s usual backcountry snowboarding plans, they decided to give snow art a try.
Eric, an engineer, sketches the patterns and calculates the number of steps needed and the required angles. Rather than using GPS or other sophisticated technology to transfer the patterns from his graphing paper to snow, Eric uses a compass.
“I taught orienteering to Scouts for … ever,” Eric said. “Never thought I’d actually use it.”
The Flygares have done three other pieces of snow art, but closer to their home in Benson. Very few people could see those, however — not even the Flygares, short of their own drone photography.
“It’s so big, from the ground level you can’t see the art,” Eric said. “Can’t see the forest for the trees, right? You just see a bunch of tracks everywhere, like somebody ran around in circles. So you have to really keep track of, ‘OK, where does this go, and where did I make my (ski pole) mark?’ So it’s kind of a fun puzzle.”
They’d see airplanes circling over the pattern and even had friends who fly say they’d seen the art. But they wanted to try a piece where more people could see and enjoy it.
“That’s kind of what led us to doing one up by Franklin Basin,” Eric said. “So we did it up there, and then that was our mistake and there was just way too much publicity.”
“I guess we did do that up in Franklin just … to get away from all the other garbage going on in the media,” Eric said, referencing coverage of Trump supporters breaking into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and subsequent fallout highlighting partisan divides. “Just like, hey, get outside. Enjoy nature, enjoy God’s creation around us and just enjoy life. There’s so much good out there, and we focus on the negative way too much.”
Even though the couple was a little discomfited by the art’s popularity, Amy said she feels it’s done some good.
“We’re just both laughing about the whole thing,” Amy said. “It’s kind of ridiculous. But I guess it’s kind of good, because there’s so much garbage right now and everybody’s so riled up about political stuff. So it’s kind of nice to throw something out there that’s a little more uplifting.”