So much more than snowmen |

So much more than snowmen

For most of people, snow sculpting rarely goes beyond the careful crafting of a snowball or the construction of a snowman.

But for the contestants who travel from all over the world to participate in Breckenridge’s International Snow Sculpture Championships, shaping snow goes way beyond decorating stacked powder balls with carrot stick noses. It is an artistic process on a medium that is huge, fragile and fleeting.

The competition is set to begin again Tuesday, bringing together 15 teams from eight different countries that will spend five days coaxing meaning from giant blocks of packed snow.

The teams, made up of five artists, have 65 hours and only manual tools to create sculptures from 12-foot high and 10-foot wide blocks of man-made snow. The public is invited to watch as the artists work throughout the week, turning the area around the Riverwalk Center into an exhibition of frozen sculptures.

The excitement and celebration of the competition in downtown Breckenridge peaks Friday night, when, racing the clock for a Saturday morning finish, many artists stay up all night putting the finishing touches on their work.

The completed sculptures are larger-than-life testaments to the international undercurrents of the competition, as a specific carvings often depicts images celebrating a team’s heritage and culture.

In 2009, team Canada took first place with a carefully detailed sculpture of two Native Americans dancing around a totem pole, titled “Family reunion: Dance of the Ancestors.”

This year international teams from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands and Sweden will participate in the competition. U.S. teams represent Alaska, Breckenridge, Loveland, Wisconsin and Vermont.

Artists will have until 10 a.m. Saturday to complete their masterpieces. Awards will go to the judges’ picks for first, second and third place, based on technique, style and theme. The winners, along with the top People’s Choice, Artists’ Choice and Kids’ Choice picks will be recognized at an awards ceremony Sunday afternoon.

The sculptures live on for another week after the competition ends, during viewing week. Lit by night, the public can continue to enjoy the frosty artwork through Feb. 6, when the carvings will be taken down overnight. Depending on the weather, some sculptures might be removed earlier if warm weather weakens them to the point where they might fall.

Snow sculpting started as a Breckenridge community tradition decades ago, bringing residents together to play in the abundant snow. In the 1980s, the event expanded as participants from other parts of Colorado began making the trek to Breckenridge. In 1991, the town tradition became an international championship competition.

For information on the Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, including parking details, go to and click on the Arts tab.

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