Dates: January 24-February 5, 2012

If 20-ton blocks of snow as blank canvasses and an international community of artists don’t get the creative juices flowing, nothing will. Budweiser’s International Snow Sculpture Event is fun for the whole family as artistic teams from around the world converge on Breckenridge for the annual event.

Emerging snow artists and seasoned veterans, such as “Carvin’ Marvin,” use extreme skill and dexterity while sculpting the chilly structures defying gravity and igniting imaginations of young and old alike. Originally inspired by snow carvings in the 1960s and 70s during Breckenridge’s Ullr Fest, the official international competition began in 1990. Teams represent countries Mexico, Canada, Japan, Italy, Norway, and France as well as the United States with 14 teams total working for five days straight. Over 30,000 spectators watch from the stomping of the snow into large blocks to the final announcements of winners each year.

Memorable moments from each year make for generations of championship goers. “Carvin’ Marvin” is a crowd favorite and captain of the Breckenridge Snowflakes, a local team that creates breathtaking sculptures annually. Weather is always tricky in Colorado, warmer temperatures making for lighter work during the initial snow removal and hewing, with colder climes better for the detailing and meticulous work planned by snow artisans on every team. One year, the Snowflake’s sculpture, a couple looking at one another, was victim to warmer temperatures late in the artistic process. The melting resulted in disaster for many teams, while the Snowflake’s creation melted and melded together, re-freezing and resulting in the ironic title “The Kiss.”

Working dutifully and diligently, teams are often hard at work during increasingly frigid temperatures. Creations from years past including skeletal Nautilus shells, herds of elephants, impossibly balanced bridges, and flying musical notes, to name a few. Using everything from hand-held saws to sandbox shovels, the artists refine their snowy blank canvasses into beautiful works of temporary art without using power tools or apparatuses. Spray bottles are utilized to create icy shells and harden the finished artworks and wood sanders to refine textures and overall effect. Free of colorants, the snow-white monuments looks to be made of pristine marble, their icy facades reflective of the talented artisans’ hard work.

international snow sculpture championships 12 Weather Takes Shape At The International Snow Sculpture Championships In Breckenridge

(credit: CBS)

Sculpting Week
January 24-28, 2012
Tuesday, January 24 at 11 a.m. until Saturday, January 28 at 10 a.m.

Sculptors are given a total of 65 hours to work with during sculpting week. The only night the artists are allowed to work through the night is on Friday into Saturday, January 28. This year brings 15 teams from around the world to compete, representing places such as Mexico, Switzerland and our very own Colorado.  

011 day 2 taken shape Weather Takes Shape At The International Snow Sculpture Championships In Breckenridge

(credit: Carl Scofield)

Saturday, January 28
10:00 a.m.
Awards Ceremony
Sunday, January 29, 2012
3:30 p.m.

When sculpting week has commenced, a panel of judges will declare one lucky team the victors. People’s Choice, Kids’ Choice and Artists’ Choice awards will also be given. Judging is based on theme, style and technique, and the first, second and third places winners all receive ribbons, medallions and most importantly, bragging rights.

January 29-Feburary 5: Viewing Week

After awards, admiration and glory have been doled out to the victors, the sculptures will remain on display until the first week of February, giving those who missed the ceremony ample time to witness the artists’ work before these beautiful pieces melt away.

img 1159 Weather Takes Shape At The International Snow Sculpture Championships In Breckenridge

Photo by Peter Pereira of Centennial

CBS Denver Insider Tips:

The Snow Lounge is a great place (and new addition this year!) to take a break from watching the artists at work. There is an impressive display of past masterpieces and the opportunity for a bite to eat. Inside the Performance Hall at the Riverwalk Center, local experts will be answering questions and the Snow Store is also a great place to pick up a keepsake.

The Town of Breckenridge is incorporating LED lighting for the sculptures this year. For the best photo opportunities, sunset or night-time photography is suggested, the dramatic and eco-friendly lighting lending to memorable and striking pictures.

Breckenridge is located about an hour and a half west of Denver. Take I-70 westbound to Highway 9 southbound into Breckenridge.

Parking is a breeze in Breckenridge thanks to the free rides offered during the event. If catching a bus from any of the numerous parking lots (free parking is available at the Courthouse Lot, the Barney Ford Lot, and the French Street Lot) to Riverwalk Center, make sure to get off at the F-Lot, which is closest to the event.

To make the most of your visit, go to Breckenridge later in the competition, as large blocks of snow will be all you see for the first couple of days. The magic is in the breathtaking details; a visit over the weekend is prime time for viewing.

Related: 2011 Breckenridge Snow Sculpting in photos

Chad is an avid globetrotter and brings the best of travel secrets and expert insights to his readership. A Denver-based travel writer and photographer, Chad’s travels have taken him to five of the seven continents in a passionate love affair with the world of travel and the outdoors. His work can be found at


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