Breckenridge 2020 International Snow Sculpture Championships
In January, the town of Breckenridge hosts the annual International Snow Sculpture Championships and this year was the 30th anniversary. Sixteen teams from around the world come to Breckenridge to hand carve 12-foot-tall, 20-ton blocks of snow into massive works of art. Over the course of five days, these intricate sculptures are carved by each team, using only power tools and their imagination. The sculptures are then judged and awarded st, 2nd, and 3rd place, as well as People’s Choice and Artist’s Choice. The teams that competed this year were from USA-Vermont, Turkey, USA-Wisconsin, Mongolia, Switzerland, Mexico, USA-Minnesota, Great Britain, India, Germany, Ecuador, France-Normandie, China, Argentina, USA-Breckenridge, and USA-Alaska.
During Technical Week, huge earth movers fill 10’x12′ cubes with compacted snow. The blocks then are allowed to settle and compact under their own weight, with a little help from volunteer “stompers.” This process allows for a more consistent and sturdier medium for the sculptors. This process takes 5 days and allows plenty of time for the snow to settle.
Next is Sculpting Week, where the 20-ton cubes of snow are opened up for the teams to begin work. As mentioned before, only hand tools from an approved list are allowed, and no power tools can be used. The artists have 5 days to turn the huge blocks into amazing, 3-dimensional works of art.
After the 5 days, judging immediately commences before the weather starts to negatively effect the art. Then the sculptures are open for public viewing for another 5 days. If it’s cloudy and snowy, the works of art tend to last longer than if it’s sunny and warm. January in Breckenridge tends to be pretty chilly so that helps, but you can still start to see melting and bowing as the viewing days pass.
If you can, it’s better to visit in the beginning of the viewing days so you can see the sculptures in their best form. The sculptures are open 24/7 during the viewing days, and at night they take on a beautiful, colorful glow with artificial lighting. Keep in mind that these sculptures bring quite the crowd, so it’s better to visit on week days an during odd hours if possible.
This year, team Mexico won 1st place with their sculpture called Greed, which depicted a glutinous king in the act of devouring food while sitting in a pile of it. They wanted to remind viewers that “there is a thin line between wanting more and having enough.” Team Britain took 2nd place with their sculpture dubbed Nice to Meet You, which features two playful dogs “greeting each other in the way that dogs always do.” This one is my personal favorite from this year’s competition. Team USA-Wisconsin placed 3rd with Duality of Soul, a dual-faced deity that represented the “duality within all of us.” People’s Choice was Team France-Normandie and Artist’s Choice was Team India.
These snow sculptures are truly beautiful works of gravity-defying art and are well worth planning a trip to Breckenridge during Viewing Week. Snowboard/ski by day, walk Main Street in the afternoon and grab some dinner, and finish the day with viewing the snow sculptures. Can’t beat that!
Zach Hopper / Breckenridge Tourism Office
About the Author
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.