This authentic village in Val d’Hérens can be reached by public transport in 45 minutes from Sion. The Dent Blanche dominates the scene – even in the tranquil ski region.
From the suburbs of Paris to picturesque Evolène: Marcio Morais has found his own personal paradise here. He charms guests as a ski lift employee and with his snow sculptures as an artist.
Turning a pile of snow into a work of art
The sound of a chainsaw breaks the silence in the mountains. A cloud of snow is thrown up above the chair lift’s upper station. Marcio kneels on a huge pile of snow and cuts contours into the hard, frozen snow, removing a wedge here, adding an improvement there. A huge snow sculpture – of a life-size lorry – is being given the final touches.
Turning a hobby into art
It all began when Marcio was still working deep in Val d’Hérens at the Arolla ski lift a few years ago. In quiet periods, the lift worker began to turn the piles of snow around him into sculptures. Guests reacted positively to the unexpected art on the mountain. This then drove him to create something even crazier each winter: a cat, a dragon, grotesque faces – or, more recently, a whole lorry. His sculptures are hollow, so you can walk inside them. “I actually cut galleries into the snow. There is one large sculpture on the outside, with several miniature sculptures on the inside.”
The ski lift operators soon recognised the added benefit of having an employee like Marcio. Creating snow sculptures recently became an official part of his job. He then uses the large trowel to shape the blocks. At the beginning of winter, snow groomers help pile up a huge mountain of snow. Once this has frozen solid, Marcio gets to work, hour by hour, day by day. Using his chainsaw, he cuts blocks from the inside and piles them up on the outside. A lorry made of snow begins to appear: 15 metres long, a good four metres high and just as wide. For the detailed work, the snow sculptor uses a saw, then smaller shovels or even a bread knife. Inside it is like a cathedral: a three-and-a-half metre-high room decorated with frescoes, animals and shapes – lovingly decorated with candles, coloured lamps and sheepskins to sit on.
Marcio’s snow sculptures have made him an ambassador for the small tourist resort. Ski instructors, locals and guests stop by and watch while he works. Once a sculpture is finished, it becomes a kind of meeting point and a popular photo subject for visitors – but also for its creator. “The guests follow me on Instagram and Facebook. This means I can share my most beautiful moments and my work with them – even once they have gone back home.
Swapping the Eiffel Tower for the Dent Blanche
Growing up in the Parisian suburbs, for the first half of his life Marcio was only familiar with snow and the mountains from television. At 18 he lost his father, so he followed his mother to Switzerland, where he immediately fell in love with the region. “There’s something special about Evolène. Everyone knows everyone here, it’s like a big family,” he enthuses about his new home. “And this environment is really special!” Marcio says as he casts his gaze across the panorama. The mountain environment here is truly impressive, dominated by the omnipresent Dent Blanche, this majestic 4,000m peak, and framed by dozens of other magnificent peaks and glaciers.
A secret gem for skiers:
Marcio couldn’t imagine a nicer place to live and work. “As a ski lift worker I never have to take a day off to go skiing. We’re on the mountain every day,” he smiles. Mountain life and skiing have become his great passion. “The Evolène ski area is a hidden gem. There’s a real family feel here. And you almost never have to queue,” he reveals. What’s more: Thanks to their orientation, the slopes enjoy the sun, and yet snow is still guaranteed since the lifts reach over 2,600m above sea level.
Not to be missed in Evolène: 3 insider tips from Marcio
After his shift on the ski lift, Marcio often spends a little time with his snow sculptures. Sometimes he might want to finish something, sometimes he’ll enjoy a fondue inside the sculpture with friends, and sometimes it’s just to end the day with a little solitude. “The calm that descends on the mountain in the evening, the light of the setting sun – these moments are simply indescribable,” he enthuses. He uses candles and coloured lamps to lovingly decorate the snow lorry. His head is already full of future projects: “I’d love the chance to create something really big in a competition in Alaska or Canada,” he says of his dream. Or he could just stay here in Evolène, building igloos where people can spend the night. And an entire sculpture landscape with an enormous castle for children. Who knows what Marcio will conjure up out of the snow next?
Published: August 2021