Ullr, the Norse god of snow, smiled down on one team carving snow in his likeness this weekend.
Team USA-Colorado/Breckenridge won first place at the 24th annual Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships. The team’s piece “Winter Fun” depicts a father and son with their dog tubing down a snowy mountain hill created by Ullr himself.
Tom Day, member of Team USA-Colorado/Breckenridge, said even with so much experience in the snow sculpture world, this win was incredibly rewarding and exciting.
“I’ve done this for 19 years, and this is the best piece I’ve ever done,” he said.
Second place went to Team Germany, for “Apecheta — The Source Where the Flow Begins,” a sculpture representing a stone cairn, which serves as a trail marker and holds spiritual significance in Incan culture. Team USA-Wisconsin placed third with “Wanderer,” a Monarch butterfly carving.
The 15 total teams worked with only hand tools for 65 hours during five days of competition, using 12-foot-tall, 20-ton blocks of snow with no internal support systems. The sculptures will remain on display at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge until Sunday, Feb. 2.
Day said one last-minute challenge arose when, during the competition, he had to hunt down a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter to put the final touches on the breath of the Ullr figure.
Jenn Cram, judge coordinator and Breckenridge Arts District administrator, said in a prepared statement on behalf of the judging panel: “Breckenridge’s piece evoked a strong emotional response from the judges and we could feel the joy of sledding. We loved the piece because it was abstract yet convincing, and we enjoyed the surprises as we walked around it. The sculpture has wonderful texture with defined edges and was executed superbly.”
The judges were: Adam Lerner, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver; Kendall Peterson, public art and creative placemaking consultant in Denver; David Griggs, a Denver-based artist; Carrie Saldo, television host and reporter for Arts District for Rocky Mountain PBS and Colorado public radio; and Tony Wilson, co-owner of Wilson Lass marketing and advertising in Breckenridge.
Though team members have changed throughout the years, Breckenridge has competed in every snow sculpture competition so far. This is the second win for Team Breckenridge in the event’s history, and Keith Martin’s first win as captain. Returning team members Tim West and Margo Jerkovitz rounded out the group.
“It’s just a super fun piece,” Day said. “We all felt really good about it, it really puts you in a good mood. This team is an incredible group to carve with. They come ready to work and get the job done.”
Highs in the low 20s during the prep week allowed for compacted snow and ideal starting surfaces, and while sculptors battled some Colorado sunshine, cold nighttime temperatures on Friday, Jan. 24 helped create optimal carving conditions for the final, around-the-clock push to the end of competition at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Breckenridge team spent the morning working right up until the deadline, clearing away snow from the pavement at the foot of the sculpture, filling in holes and cleaning off dirt.
Winners receive medals and recognition from the international snow sculpture community. No prize money is awarded, however, teams receive travel stipends and free meals and lodging during the event.
Teams competing included: Catalonia-Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain-Wales, Italy, Lithuania, Mongolia, Mongolia-Ulaanbaatar, Russia, USA-Colorado/Black Forest, USA-Colorado/Breckenridge, USA-Vermont and USA-Wisconsin.
“We were waiting and heard third, second, and then it took a second to realize they were talking about us,” Day said. “There was extreme elation when we won, all four of us were jumping up and down and hugging each other.”