Building a snowman isn’t always just a way to while away a long winter. For some people in Russia and Ukraine, it’s a way to possibly earn some significant money.

The YouTube channel SlivkiShow, popular among Russian-speakers with more than 12 million subscribers, launched some elaborate construction efforts last month by announcing a prize of 100,000 rubles ($1,500) for the tallest snowman built by viewers.

A group of young men from Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine where armed conflict between separatists and Ukrainian forces drags on, looked like serious contenders until they were undone by war and weather.

“Our snowman turned out to be about 11 meters (36 feet), but we literally didn’t make it by a couple of hours — it melted,” said constructor Daniil Kovalenko. “And it’s not just the melting … but because we live in Donetsk — and everybody knows what’s going on in Donetsk — there were strong blows, the ground shook and the whole last part of the snowman we built in the last three days crashed down.”

The contest may be a potentially lucrative lark for some, but for a woman in the Arctic Circle city of Severomorsk, it’s serious business. She wants the prize in order to defray the costs of surgery for her son.

In videos submitted to the contest so far, building techniques have ranged from rolling a big ball of snow to well-organized work by teams applying the snow to solid frames. Contest rules say it has to all be done by hand — no machines allowed.

And, the contest specifies that each snowman — no matter how big and intimidating — has to have a jolly, classic carrot nose.

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