Amateur snow sculptors face off |

Amateur snow sculptors face off

Jessica Smith
Summit Daily News

BRECKENRIDGE — Snow art has been part of Breckenridge for more than 20 years. From its early days as an amateur competition that was part of the town’s Ullr Fest celebration, the pastime evolved into the International Snow Sculpture Championships, drawing teams from as far away as Mongolia and Singapore.

Yet while the professionals now have their platform each January in Breckenridge, it came to a point that there wasn’t anything left for the amateurs.

“Snow sculpture became so big and professional that the grassroots nature of the art form got lost in the shuffle,” said Rob Neyland, a partner at Breckenridge Associates Real Estate and part of the group that started the International Snow Sculpting Championships. “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.”

So the group came up with the Breckenridge

Snowflake Challenge — a snow-sculpting competition for anyone and everyone.

The event, which kicked off Monday, March 4, is open to teams with any number of members of any age. Some teams are affiliated with a business; others are a group of friends looking for something fun to do. The competition runs through Saturday, March 9. Unlike the international competition, teams must gather their own snow, either from nearby or somewhere farther 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 such as 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. Power tools are not allowed. All sculpting and carving must be done using hand tools, such as ice scrapers, shovels and saws.

“There is no experience required to do this,” Neyland said. “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. 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.

Three judges will inspect the sculptures at the end of the competition and award cash prizes — $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second, $500 for third and $250 for fourth. Criteria for a winning sculpture include artistic impact, originality, technical execution and engagement of the audience.

“It’s really exciting and gratifying to see that torch be passed to the next generation of snow artists,” Neyland said.

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