Interview with the sculpting team

Behind the scenes: Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships
The 26th annual Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships get underway this week with teams from around the globe ready to transform 22-ton frozen blocks into intricate works of art.

snow-sculptures80Team USA-Colorado/Breckenridge captain Keith Martin shares 5 carving truths:

  1. Solid flake foundation

Even though it’s called a snow sculpting competition, during the movement, processing and packing of the snow, its molecular structure changes. The tiny individual facets of each snowflake melt slightly from all the friction. They then, overnight, re-freeze back together, creating one solid block. This icy structure provides incredible support for the sculpture that lies within.

  1. Mother Nature vs. physics
Carl Scofield Ice Sculpture
Photo courtesy Carl Scofield / GoBreck

When creating an idea, I am constantly thinking of how this delicate piece of art will support itself. Mother Nature has the ability to change our structure even if we don’t want her to. The sun shining is our enemy. It uses the snow as a magnifying lens, melting the structure from within.

Gravity pulls the water through the structure in the path of least resistance. Build up of water weight will eventually cause the appendage of the sculpture to fail and break off.

Although the enemy, Mother Nature still needs to step in every night and re-freeze the sculpture. This helps strengthen the snow by allowing the flakes to freeze back together.

  1. Ice mining

Creative use of razor sharp tools is crucial.

Team Breck’s sculpture this year is inspired by hard rock mining. Just like miners, sculptors recognize what areas of the block need to be removed. An ice fishing auger allows a structural relief in the medium. After the structure is weakened, teams blast out the unwanted areas.

Being able to carve snow from the block without using an excessive chopping force keeps the artist from accidentally chipping off a part of the sculpture they wanted to keep. When sculpting the final details, it’s important to use sharp tools so that precise details don’t accidentally get whacked.

  1. Channel your inner child

As children we had a miraculous way of seeing things that adults don’t. The make-believe castles and forts in our backyard. The imaginary friends we played with for hours. The games and the creativity. All of that childhood fun returns when sculpting snow. I get to imagine things that are there but others can’t see yet.

  1. Cold hard dedication

Sculpting snow is an endurance sport.

The fact that a sculptor cannot feel their fingers is put out of their mind as they continue. A bag full of back-up gloves and dry socks are continuously rotated through. Ibuprofen becomes a necessity as the repetitive force begins to weaken the arms and arthritic pain begins to creep in.

Some years you win and some years you don’t. At the end, that doesn’t matter. Being creative with a team of friends and having a completed piece that we’re proud of is what means the most.

The Rules

Teams may only use hand tools to carve out their proposed design. No power tools, support structures or colorants allowed.

  • Teams of four have five days (65 hours) to sculpt.
  • Winners receive no money – just bragging rights.snow-sculptures67

The Schedule

  • Stomping week Jan. 18–23
  • Artists sculpt Jan. 26–30
  • Awards ceremony Jan. 30, 2 p.m.
  • Fire Arts Festival 28–31
  • Sculptures remain standing (weather permitting) until Feb. 7

Learn more.

    Leave a Reply