Snowzilla returns to Airport Heights after 10-year hiatus

The behemoth snowman that stole Anchorage’s heart years ago is back — as big as always, and looking friendlier than ever.

Colton Powers stood on a piece of scaffolding high in the sky as he inserted a long, wooden arm with a red mitten the size of a baseball bat into the shoulder of a snowy behemoth that towered above the nearby houses while his father directed from below.

“Right there, that’s perfect. That’s lovely,” said Billy Powers, smiling up at his adult son, who first helped construct the giant neighborhood snowman nearly two decades ago as a young child.

Like its predecessors, this year’s incarnation of the snowman — dubbed Snowzilla in news accounts when it first appeared in 2005 — will don its original 5-foot-tall hat made of tomato cages, a carrot nose and a corncob pipe made out of a wooden rod and soup can.

Unlike a traditional snowman, which is made by rolling a large snowball on top of a slightly larger snowball, perhaps on top of an even larger snowball, a creation of Snowzilla’s scale requires a different construction method: by piling many, many small pieces of snow and slush on top of one another until the three-tiered structure more than 20 feet tall is complete.

“It’s one snowball at a time,” said Billy Powers.

Snowzilla has a few new features this year, including freshly sewn eyes made of upholstered plywood stools shaped in wide circles, in place of its original beer-bottle eyes.

“These big eyes are more friendly,” said Billy Powers. “The old Snowzilla had kind of beady eyes, you know.”

Friendliness is important when it comes to being a snowman, Powers said.


“He’s got to be a happy soul. You know, size isn’t everything. His size does matter, it’s more about his demeanor, you know, if he looks like you want to give him a hug.”

Snowzilla, the Anchorage icon that made national headlines in its early years, has a somewhat fraught history.

In 2008, the Powers family received a cease-and-desist notice from the city after receiving complaints from neighbors about the increased traffic to the quiet Airport Heights neighborhood, and concerns that the structure itself might be unsafe.

A few weeks after being abated just days before Christmas, the snowman resurrected itself overnight, bigger than ever.

This year, the Powers family, along with friends and neighbors, have been working on Snowzilla since mid-November. They added the finishing touches to their creation on Christmas Eve.

[Artist hopes Utqiaġvik snow sculpture can help bring light to people grieving during holidays]

The father-son duo said the decade-long break was due to a combination of factors, including a lack of good and plentiful snow early in the season, and life.

“We had bad snow years for several, and then my kids grew up and dispersed. It takes a lot of energy,” said Billy Powers.

“We kind of always said, if we’re gonna do it, it’s got to get done by Christmas,” said Colton Powers. “And not a lot of years have we had enough snow to get it done. This year just happened to be insane. So, why not?”

Longtime neighbor Darrell Estes — who sewed the eyes this year, and is the architect behind Snowzilla’s hat, pipe and nose — said he wasn’t worried about the city coming to bother the Powers family this year.

“(The city) kind of ran the gamut when they bad-mouthed it,” Estes said as he twisted fresh copper wire around the edges of Snowzilla’s hat. “I mean, there’s no snowman law. You can’t tell someone they can’t build a snowman.”

“It’s all positive around here. The neighbors are chill, we’re keeping the streets clean,” said Colton Powers, who also noted that he wasn’t worried about complaints or city code enforcers.


“Who don’t like a snowman?” added Billy Powers.

Estes said the snowman has meant a lot to a lot of people, including his mom, who passed away a few years ago.

As the men worked, cars slowed to a stop, their passengers reaching through windows to snap photos and stare up at the snowman.

Billy Powers said a lot of his neighbors remember Snowzilla from when they were children, and now are bringing their own children to see him.

He said Saturday that people’s positive reactions as they drive by were a sign Snowzilla was almost complete.

“It’s just a feel-good story, you know,” he said. “That’s the whole point. He’s not political, he doesn’t have any baggage. A snowman is a snowman, and everybody loves him.”

[For the darkest time of year, an ode to (mostly artificial) light]

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Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care, education and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at