International Snow Sculpture Championships

sculpting snow in colorado

There are many things that have put Breckenridge on the map and the International Snow Sculpture Championships is no exception. Armed with only hand tools and their creative spirits, sixteen renowned teams from around the world compete to win the title of best in the world. 

Held every January, this event can bring thousands of domestic and international tourists down to Colorado. To witness this stunning competition and the creations that come from it, be sure to book your next vacation to Colorado!

If you would like to learn more details on how the snow sculpture gained international accreditation and more keep reading. 

The History of the International Snow Sculpture Championships 

The history of the snow sculptures can be traced back to the 1970s to a festival known as Ullr Fest. Ullr Fest is a celebration like no other in the world. 

The sculptures were made by amateur teams who came to participate in the winter festival that was held on an annual basis. Ullr Fest was appropriately named after a semi-fictional god of snow. Therefore, it was only natural that the sculptures be added to the festival’s activities. 

The Snow Sculptures Championship was Carvin’ Marvin’ and the Snowflakes. This was a pseudonym used by two Breckenridge locals, Rob Neyland and Ron Shelton. In the ’70s, they would create snow sculptures in front of their real estate office during every Ullr Fest.  

winter in colorado

Neyland and Shelton went on to win several of the sculpture championships in the 1970s in Breckenridge. They went on to travel both domestically and internationally, competing in other championships and also sharing their passion with other like-minded enthusiasts in the snow sculpting community. 

It was Carvin’ Marvin’ and the Snowflakes who pushed the agenda for the Championships at the local city council meetings. Their tenacity and enthusiasm have led to the recognition of the event on a national and international scale. 

Their dream came full-circle in 1991 when the city finally held its first International Snow Sculpture Championships. The venue was at the Old Bell Tower Mall parking area to allow for cars to still move through the town. The incorporation of the Championships significantly improved the quality of the craft in the area. 

The event was moved to West Adams in the early 2000s before finally choosing to occupy the Riverwalk Centre parking area. It is a strategic location since the parking area is one of the busiest ones in town. 

The Process

To prepare for the International Snow Sculpture Championships local sponsors and companies come together to build forms at the Riverwalk Centre parking. The forms are later on filled with snow that is trucked down to the town. To create that perfect sculpting block, the snow is compacted by volunteers’ feet again and again until a 10-foot by 10-foot by 12-foot block is ready.  

making snow structures

The number of blocks made will of course be determined by the number of teams participating in that given year. The teams’ number is never fixed. The Championships’ event staff choose from resumes that are sent from all over the world in the fall to determine who will compete. 

As stated earlier, during the competition itself, contestants are not allowed to use any power tools. Observers get to see creative uses of tools such as cheese graters and ice saws. The use of artificial colors and internal supports are also banned making the final results that much more impressive. 

The carving is scheduled to take place over the course of a week. Competitors start work on a Monday morning and over the week, the 30,000+ people who visit Summit County get to see the sculptures take shape. The deadline for the carving is 10 a.m. Saturday morning. 

Judging starts almost immediately and ends by about noon. On the same day, there is an awards ceremony. To allow the masses to enjoy the event, there is also a viewing period. 

What Makes the International Snow Sculpture Championships Unique? 

There are several factors that make this Breckenridge event stand out from similar ones both domestically and on an international level. The community feel is one of the most defining characteristics. Breckenridge, Colorado locals accommodate the event whole-heartedly. 

winter rental home

The town council offers public parking for the setup as well as public staff for the coordination of traffic. Local companies provide equipment for the assembly of the blocks and fire pits to keep the chill away.

During the winter season, Breckenridge experiences dryer and colder weather conditions when compared to other events, perfectly accommodating the sculptures. Participants reveal that it’s easier to carve and chip away in such weather. The sculptures are also able to last longer, making the event more memorable and special. 


Colorado offers plenty of fun winter activities for people of all ages to enjoy. If you’re thinking of coming down for the Sculpture Championships or any of the other wonderful winter events in the areas, book a comfortable vacation rental to get the most out of your vacation!

Bighorn Rentals offers spacious and luxurious lodging in Copper Mountain, Frisco, and Summit County. Our company offers a wide range of options from in-town condos to lodging near the ski resorts. Regardless of your lodging needs, our team is able to give you accommodation that fits your needs, style, and budget. 

Contact us today to learn more about our vacation rentals!

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