The Snow Queen of Bethel, Maine | Up Close

Even the sun must have felt daunted at the prospect of melting this Mainer’s heart.

By Joe Bills

Dec 27 2019


Bethel, Maine’s record breaking snow-woman.

Photo Credit : Cappi Thompson/Getty Images

It’s been said that New England winters can make people crazy, but maybe that isn’t always a bad thing. In late February 2008 in Bethel, Maine, where the population hovers around 2,600 and yearly snowfall has been known to exceed 10 feet, a group of locals decided to do something a little crazy. They built a snowman. Or rather, a snow-woman.

Typically, there’d be nothing unusual about this. The first documentary evidence of snowmen dates to the 1300s, and the phenomenon probably long predates that. And now, all around the world, the day after any snowstorm a bumper crop of snowmen can be seen dotting front yards and public spaces.

But Bethel’s creation was no average snow-woman.

Nine years earlier, the town had built a 10-story snowman named Angus (for then Maine governor Angus King, now a U.S. senator), which was subsequently recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest snowman ever.

Bethel, Maine’s record breaking snow-woman.
Photo Credit : Cappi Thompson/Getty Images

In 2008, tired of resting on their laurels (and blessed with a very snowy winter), Bethel residents reassembled to top their own record. They named their creation Olympia in honor of, appropriately enough, Olympia Snowe, who was then one of their U.S. senators.

At roughly 122 feet, Olympia was more than eight feet taller than Angus—and only 30 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty. She tipped the scales at 13 million pounds of snow, stacked in four-foot layers. Her eyes were formed of six-foot evergreen wreaths, with Alpine skis for lashes. Elementary school students built an eight-foot “carrot” nose out of muslin, chicken wire, and wood. Five painted automobile tires shaped her smile, while the three buttons on her torso were truck tires. Her arms were 27-foot spruce trees; her hair, 2,000 feet of rope.

Style matters, even to snow-people, so Olympia sported a 130-foot-long scarf and a fleece hat with a 48-foot circumference. Around her neck was a 50-foot flexible pipe necklace with a mica snowflake pendant created by a local jeweler.

Olympia’s most unusual feature, however, went mostly unseen: The 12-foot scarf that Angus had worn a decade earlier was bundled into a “heart” and buried behind the pendant.

Olympia had staying power, too. Last rites were given on July 30, when she was declared melted at the ripe old age of five months.