Snow art has been a part of Breckenridge for more than 20 years, through festivals and competition. The first snow sculpting competition eventually evolved into what is now the international competition, drawing teams from as far away as Mongolia and Singapore. While the professionals have their platform, there wasn't anything left for the amateurs. So five years ago the town of Breckenridge came up with a remedy - the Breckenridge Snowflake Challenge, a snow sculpting competition for anyone and everyone."That was a super cool thing, but what happened in the interim was that snow sculpture became so big and professional, that the grassroots nature of the art form got lost in the shuffle," Rob Neyland, partner at Breckenridge Associates Real Estate and part of the group that started the snow sculpting competition, said of the international event. "It was our goal five years ago to reinvigorate and bring that art form to its native roots of locals doing sculptures on Main Street."The Breckenridge Snowflake Challenge is open to teams with any number of members of any age. Teams may be affiliated with a business, or simply a group of friends looking for something fun to do. The competition begins Monday and lasts until March 9, with cash prizes going up to fourth place.One difference between this and the international competition is that teams must gather their own snow, either from nearby or somewhere further away."You pile up your own snow, like we used to do it in the old days," Neyland said. "Now, thankfully, there's plenty of it around."Teams are encouraged to use structures like plywood and trash cans to help shape and support their sculptures. One year, for example, the GodSpeed Tattoo team packed snow into garbage cans and turned them over to create a row of owls. The only other rule, aside from gathering the snow, is that power tools are not allowed. All sculpting and carving must be done using hand tools such as ice scrapers, shovels, saws, etc."There is no experience required to do this. Typically, most of the people that do start out in this competition have no prior experience, but it's a great team-building thing. Everybody's built a snowman at one point or other in the past," Neyland said. "I think it's really awesome to be able to find inspiration in our most precious natural resource, and that is snow."In addition to having fun and creating art, the goal of the Breckenridge Snowflake Challenge is to provide amateur snow sculptors with a chance to practice their skills and get a taste for competition. In fact, three members of Team Breckenridge, which competes in the international event, came up through the ranks of the Snowflake Challenge.Nor is the challenge just reserved for local residents. Visitors can also join in."If there are spring breakers around and they want to do a snow sculpting completion, bring it," Neyland said.Three judges will inspect the sculptors at the end of the competition and award the cash prizes, $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, $500 for third and $250 for fourth. The judges have yet to be chosen, though Neyland said all of them will have artistic backgrounds. Criteria for a winning sculpture includes artistic impact, originality, technical execution and engagement of the audience.Team registration for the competition is allowed up to the kickoff party, which takes place Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Burke and Riley's Irish Pub in Breckenridge. "It's really exciting and gratifying to see that torch be passed to the next generation of snow artists," Neyland said. "We want to have Main Street come alive with snow art."
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