Team Wisconsin tops 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships

The 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships took place in Breckenridge, Colorado as it does every year. Having been on hold the last two years due to the pandemic, nine teams eagerly competed for the honor of First, Second, or Third Place, as well as Artist’s Choice and People’s Choice awards.

Contestants for the 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships included one team each from Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, and New York, two teams from Colorado, and three from Wisconsin. The nationality of team members can vary.

Carved from 25-ton blocks of ice trucked in locally, artists use only hand tools such as chisels and saws to create the snow art. They work continuously for four days and can even work around the clock if they desire. Carving closes at 9:00 AM the fifth day, immediately followed by judging.

The ice creations remain on display for public viewing for another five days. In front of each sculpture, information boards list team members and depict and describe the muse.

Team Wisconsin, The Digital Divide, 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships. Photo by Joanne Galko.
Team Wisconsin, The Digital Divide, 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships. Photo by Joanne Galko.

I found it interesting to view the sculptures at various times. Dim morning shadows, direct sunlight, and twilight all cast different perspectives on the works of art throughout the day. At night, neon-colored lights encircle the sculptures providing a fun, luminescent experience.

Carving out distinct perpendicular edges and deep grooves is one thing. Intricate details such as a bee pollinating a flower or facial expressions take sculpting to a whole new level. True artistic ability and grace shine through when creating objects like the smooth flexing of a human hand or a curvaceous cylinder.

Some people might question how a team from Ecuador can challenge competitively coming from a year-round spring-like climate. The answer is in the art form itself. Carving objects out of dense material is a subtractive process compared to additive processes such as casting, modeling, or assembling. Think of Michelangelo’s “David” statue. It’s all about technique. Ice blocks are just another medium.

While no cash prizes are awarded, ribbons, trophies, and plenty of accolades are bestowed on the winners at the awards ceremony and farewell dinner. This year, Team Wisconsin scooped up both gold for The Digital Divide and bronze for Bee Sustainability. Germany won second prize and Artist’s Choice with its Float, a geometric creation of order and balance. Mexico went home with People’s Choice for its King of Thrones, having been knocked off its own throne from top place in the last two consecutive championships.

Team Wisconsin, The Digital Divide, 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships. Photo by Joanne Galko.
Team Wisconsin, The Digital Divide, 2022 International Snow Sculpture Championships. Photo by Joanne Galko.

For the artists, it’s all about camaraderie and joining forces with like-minded artisans to craft their skills.

Keith Martin from Team Breckenridge also contributed a fun walk-in ice sculpture dedicated to Barney Ford’s 200th birthday. An escaped slave, Barney became a prominent entrepreneur/activist settling in Breckenridge in the 1880s. Not part of the competition, the Barney Ford house was extremely popular with kids.

Bulldozers will eventually flatten the shapes, and the employee parking lot will reappear, providing the blank canvas for next year’s inspiration.

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