What Team Colorado is creating at Breckenridge snow sculpture competition
Steve Mercia pauses for a moment when asked what it takes to be a professional snow sculptor.
- "It takes a special person," he says finally. "You get cold, you get wet. There has to be a passion."
What's happening: The 53-year-old Loveland construction worker is leading Team Colorado in this week's 31st annual International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge.
- The nine teams — which travel from all over the globe — began carving Monday and will finish Friday. The public can view the sculptures through next Wednesday at 7pm.
- Team Colorado's snow sculpture is inspired by an image Mercia saw online of an airplane bringing a fallen soldier back from war. The plane is firing a series of missiles that resemble guardian angels.
What he's saying: "Art is not just visual, it's mental. Some artists will challenge you to think."
How it works: Each four-person team receives a 25-ton block of snow that is 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide on each side.
- In 94 hours, sometimes working through the night, the teams use a variety of tools, from small hand saws to vegetable peelers and chicken wire, to carve their creations. Power tools and supports are not allowed.
- The trick is to realize that forces of nature — particularly the sun — are always the fifth teammate. "Snow is easy to use … snow can make slush and be put back together. It's a forgiving medium, but it's constantly changing and evolving as Mother Nature changes," Mercia explains.
Between the lines: The sculpting process begins well before the artists arrive.
- Breckenridge Ski Resort makes snow and the town hauls it to the event site where it is loaded into concrete molds.
- A team of volunteer "stompers" pack it down.
How to attend: The "grand illumination" starts at 6:30pm Friday after the awards ceremony and runs nightly.
- Because of the event's popularity, free timed-entry reservations are required during the day Saturday.
What's next: Mercia is the reigning state champion, and the snow sculpting circuit — yes, it's a real thing — will take him to the U.S. National Championships in Wisconsin in early February.
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