The History of Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships

  • January 13, 2020

With the 2020 Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships just around the corner, you probably would like to know how this event started – it is now one of the biggest and most visited events in Breckenridge!

It all started in the 70s during Ullr Fest. Amateur teams started to make sculptures from giant heaps of snow in front of their shops on Main Street. Local realtors, Rob Neyland and Ron Shelton, made snow sculptures during every Ullr Fest in front of their real estate office. Rob and Ron were able to bring the state snow sculpture championships to Breckenridge in the ’80s and it was very successful. They formed a team and traveled internationally.

The first International Snow Sculpture Championship was brought to Breckenridge in 1991. Back then, the event was held at the Bell Tower Mall. When the Bell Tower Mall was demolished in 2002, the event moved to West Adams and then later took over the parking lot at the Riverwalk Center. This presents a challenge, as parking is always tight in Breckenridge!

The Breckenridge Snow Sculpture Championships is one of the best in the world due to the weather (it’s much colder and less humid than in other locations), the quality of the carving blocks made by the Breckenridge Ski Resort with man-made snow, and the involvement of the community.

The town gives up some parking, local lodging companies, including The Wedgewood Lodge, give rooms to house more than 80 people who are here to carve and judge. Local restaurants and caterers provide food for the sculptors. Many local business get involved as well.

One week before the competition begins, the town and sponsors erect forms in the Riverwalk Parking lot. The forms are 10 foot x 10 foot x 12 foot and are filled with snow made on the mountain and brought down by trucks. Volunteers climb on the forms filled with snow and start packing the snow (think grape stomping). The packing continues until the snow is a height of 12 feet. The finished weight of the snow block is about 40,000 pounds! The form is removed and set up to make another block.

The staff of the town of Breckenridge arranges all details for the participating teams. They select the teams from submitted designs early in the fall. They then coordinate travel, food arrangements and lodging. There are approximately 18 teams each year, and most are from different countries. Artists are not paid to make their pieces of art.

No power tools are allowed for carving, although sculptors who make the sponsors’ snow or ice works do use them.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of this amazing event. Here is the schedule:

January 20 – 24 Sculpting

January 24 Judging & Award Ceremony

January 25 – 29 Viewing

Come to Breckenridge, stay at The Wedgewood Lodge and watch the snow sculptors create their masterpieces January 20 – 24 and/or come to view the final pieces January 25-29. We’re happy to offer a 15% discount so you can share our excitement over our favorite event of the year! (Arrival date must be on or between January 20 – January 29 and reservations have a two night minimum.)

Use the promo code SNOW on our website or when you call us to make your reservation.