The Gentle Giant Behind Central Park’s Giant Snowmen

Meet Wyatt Smith, the six-foot-ten architect who builds Central Park’s annual giant snowmen!

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Courtesy of Wyatt Smith

Wyatt Smith after building his snowman on the night of February 1st, 2021. “The city shines brightest when it’s snowing like this. You can just feel a noticeable level of joy in the air,” he said.

As the end of the school year nears, the most exciting events of a blurry, painful, yet hopeful year beg for reflection and attention. The snowfall in New York over the winter of 2020-2021 presented a joyful change from humdrum days, providing a sense of wonder and a much-needed opportunity for creativity. For many weeks, the city was filled with snow sculptures — giant octopi, tall snowmen, little bear families, and igloos — creations that brought joy to everyone passing by. February was in fact the 8th snowiest in New York City history (according to the National Weather Service’s records, which extend back to 1868), with snowflakes falling 13 of 28 days.

New Yorkers celebrated the classic winter weather. One man in particular, Wyatt Smith (@skyskribble on Instagram), quite literally took his love of snow to new heights. Standing at six feet, 10 inches, he is the man behind one of Central Park’s most popular snow creations — Big Frost, a 10-foot-tall snowman standing on a hill between Sheep Meadow and the Mall

Smith, a 35-year-old architect, has been living in New York for the past three-and-a-half years. Following a childhood tradition, he has been building with snow every time the conditions are right. “Growing up in the Seattle area, near the mountains and near all that wilderness sparked my interest in snow and building snowmen and just all those fun activities. The area that my brothers and I lived in was perfect for it,” Smith said. “Even when there wasn’t snow in Seattle, we could drive out to the mountains and have a snowman contest.”

Aside from the snowmen, he and his family would also build igloos and go sledding in boats. Smith experienced every kind of winter fun imaginable, and his fondest childhood memory involves a big snowman: “Me, my brothers and my dad, we all got together and worked all day and built an 11-foot snowman! It’s the biggest one I’ve ever been part of building, and it was so much fun. We used a giant ladder to reach the top to put the head on, and it took a month to melt. It was great.”

Smith’s childhood in snowy Washington state subconsciously influenced his decision to become an architect. “I like to build, and especially where there’s a lot of snow, there are lots of possibilities to build things,” he said. “So that’s probably part of [why I chose my job now], actually.” 

His favorite building is the Empire State Building. “I know it’s mainstream,” he admitted, “but it’s the king of skyscrapers, and it’s inspired me a lot as a kid toward skyscraper architecture.” Living in the city has been an architectural dream. “It’s great to be working here. New York architecture set the stage for [my job]. I work on high rises, apartment buildings, and hotels.” 

That’s why his instagram name is @skyskribble. He loves skyscrapers, and he loves to scribble and draw. A few years ago, “I just combined those together and it sounded really nice,” he said; the name has stuck ever since.

Given his love of snow, Smith can see himself working with ice or snow as an architect in the future — perhaps helping with something like Harbin’s magnificent ice festival. “I don’t mind cold weather at all. With good gloves and shoes, I can work comfortably. And ice is intriguing. It would be a fun experiment,” he said.

On February 3rd, 2021, I visited Wyatt Smith’s giant snowman for the first time. For reference, I’m 5’9! (Montana Lee)

Channeling his architectural instincts when the snowstorm of March 2019 hit, Smith built a smaller snowman, about six-foot-six, on the southwest side of Sheep Meadow in Central Park. “To my surprise, passers-by loved it and were lining up to take pictures with it as it was nearing completion!” said Smith. Motivated by the positive response, he wondered what might happen if he stepped it up a notch and built a snowman as round and tall as he possibly could.

Of course, such a feat would require a prominent place of display. A few days later, walking around in search for the perfect spot, Smith stumbled upon the hill near the northeast corner of Sheep Meadow, next to the tree-lined promenade known as the Mall. He knew the hill would be perfect— “it was highly visible from different angles and was at a popular pedestrian intersection,” he said.

There, in six hours, he built his very first giant New York snowman, almost nine feet tall with a hat on. Seeing its likeness to a “massive Frosty the Snowman,” Smith named it “Big Frost.” He has built two other Big Frost snowmen in that exact location (March 2019, December 2020, and February 2021). These snowmen took on the classic “Frosty” image, with a corncob pipe, a top hat, and a scarf. But he plans to switch it up every once in a while; a snowlady will be his next project, hopefully in December 2021. He wants to name her “Big Frostina” and adorn her with a feminine hat with red glasses and lips. “I think it could be pretty funny if I kept that same kind of language, but had a funny twist to it every now and again,” he said. 

Due to wear-and-tear and winter weather, Wyatt’s snowman crumbled, and he made emergency repairs in the evening of February 7th, 2021. “He’s definitely a little wider this time, because the old snowman is buried within!” said Smith. (Courtesy of Wyatt Smith)

At the foot of his most recent Big Frost, Smith placed a whiteboard with his instagram handle (@skyskribble, a portmanteau of “skyscraper” and “scribble”). He received hundreds of wholesome Instagram tags and messages about the snowman. “Someone sent me a really cute picture of a group of kids wrapping around the whole snowman and forming a giant hug,” reminisced Smith. “That was my favorite. There are a lot of great snow creations in Central Park; I am flattered that Big Frost is among them and that people like him.”

The public loves Big Frost. “I do this every year because people really seem to enjoy it, and it’s fun and challenging to build a snowman that large.” All of his snow creations are built on the same foundation: a cluster of 20 to 30 snowballs packed and smoothed together. “A lot of people think the base is just one giant snowball, but rolling that would really tire me out,” said Smith. “I also wouldn’t be able to lift up the middle.” After, he makes close to a hundred snowballs to build the middle and the top, then blending it all together into two balls as round as possible. With “so many different forms of snow there, the big balls don’t crack as easily.”

Building a giant snowman “can be a real workout sometimes,” said Smith. But it’s a rewarding challenge. For him, the best part of building a snowman is wrapping up the middle ball. “When I do that, I know I’m in the home stretch. Only the head is left, and that’s the fun part to put on!” He always has a friend record the final step. “It’s a ceremonious thing, putting the head and all of the accessories on,” he said. To close the “ceremony,” he says happy birthday to the snowman. “It’s like the Frosty cartoons. Saying that brings it alive.”

When Smith’s done, he feels pride and exhaustion. “Seeing something I built that’s much taller than me…It’s a pretty special feeling. Sometimes I build it so fast, I don’t really get a chance to take a step back and realize how massive it is. I am ready for a good rest after that,” he said, laughing. 

Like the sage Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It seems that this pearl of wisdom applies to building giant snowmen too. 

“I like to build, and especially where there’s a lot of snow, there are lots of possibilities to build things,” said Wyatt Smith.

Seen here on Smith’s story, an Instagram user shares a picture of Big Frost on a sunny morning. (Courtesy of Wyatt Smith)
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