New sculpture of Ullr intended to reflect the spirit of Breckenridge
While visitors and residents might not be able to curry Ullr’s favor at Ullr Fest this year, there is still some hope that the fabled Norse god of skis and the bow may be impressed enough to bless the area with a frozen bounty after the recent unveiling of a 25-foot sculpture of him at the base of Peak 8 at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Mike Dudick, CEO and co-owner of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, said he’s wanted something big and impressive at the location between the Grand Colorado on Peak 8 resort and the ski area for a while, though he didn’t know quite how it was going to turn out until after the sculpture was installed.
“Part of the trick of being a developer is seeing what things might look like,” Dudick said. “Whether it’s a building or this sculpture, it’s part of the secret sauce for me … visioning what the possibilities are.”
He and his wife, Anna, put out a call for sculptors in late 2018, and after sorting through 174 submissions, they invited three finalists, including Scott, to come to the 56th Ullr Fest in January 2019. From there, the design and Scott’s selection came about quickly.
“Before (Scott) left, he had drawn on a piece of paper the original concept, which we were very impressed with,” said Juli Rathke, the director of corporate communications for Breckenridge Grand Vacations.
While some of his designs take a while to coalesce, Scott said the atmosphere and environment around Ullr Fest allowed him to have a concept drawing sketched out before he had returned to his studio in Philadelphia.
“The Ullr idea came to my head very quickly,” he said. “Before I had left Breckenridge, I had the idea in my head and sketched it down. It must’ve been the beautiful surroundings and the mountain here that did it to me. Not every inspiration comes as quickly.”
After the concept drawing was approved, Scott got to work on building the sculpture, a process that took a little over a year, though that time wasn’t all spent on the one project. Scott said he is typically working on two or three projects at any moment to ensure he maintains cash flow for his studio.
That workflow allows him to step away from intensive projects for a little bit of time and consistently approach them with “fresh eyes” as we works through different parts of the process with various sculptures.
After the concept sketch, he then builds the contour — the wire frame for the sculpture — covers it in thousands of small pieces of steel, breaks it into smaller pieces and then sends it to an industrial factory to be galvanized to give it a polished, weather-resistant finish.
“It’s a fairly intense process, and you have to hope it will come back as beautiful as you imagine,” said Scott, describing the anxiety of sending his work away to be galvanized.
After that, the sculpture was brought to Peak 8 and assembled at its permanent home Nov. 11, right before opening day at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
Dudick said he’s incredibly pleased with the final piece, especially with how the sculpture fits with the character of the resort and mountain.
“I didn’t know quite how it was going to look like, but this was to me aspirational of what I thought Breck deserved: just something grand, bold and big, and a statement,” he said. “I think its size fits awesome with the backdrop of the mountains — they’re so big — and also the backdrop against these buildings, which are big. So we couldn’t just have some puny little thing out there. It would get lost.”
Dudick added that while he initially chose Scott for his design, he also really loved how his process differs from more traditional cast bronze works.
“It wasn’t just a clay sculpture turned into bronze,” Dudick said. “This was birthed from thousands of pieces welded together.”
Scott, who said he “sees little segments of steel in his sleep,” said his approach of forming a large sculpture out of thousands of tiny pieces came about slowly while he evolved his style as a working artist. He credits taking some of his inspiration from American painter Chuck Close, who creates large portraits by combining hundreds of smaller painted squares.
“I almost treat each piece of steel as a brush stroke,” said Scott, who also likes to take inspiration from history and nature. One of his most monumental works, “The Kelpies,” towers 100 feet tall in Falkirk, Scotland.
For Dudick, having a massive sculpture of Ullr greeting people as they come off the gondola reflects the culture of fun that has been built into Breckenridge since before he moved there over 30 years ago.
“My first winter season, I’ll never forget the first Ullr Fest,” Dudick said. “I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ Just all of it. People just really partying hard and having a good time. … All the fun of having a town celebration and a town mascot, I was like, ‘This is an awesome place to live!’ Now three decades later, I get to help get something that’s iconic and will last well beyond me to be here in Breckenridge.”
The cost of the sculpture and site preparations ended up being close to $300,000, said Dudick, who sees these sorts of sculptures as gifts to the community. He and his wife also funded the sculpture called “Tom’s Baby” in Prospector Park.
“That’s just because we just wanted to do that,” Dudick said. “That’s a gift from Breckenridge Grand Vacations to the guests and residents of Breckenridge.”
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