Frozen art: Visit ice and snow sculptures in Colorado

Jan. 5, 2022
Teams from around the world get to work starting Jan. 24, carving 12-foot tall, 20-ton blocks of snow into masterpieces at the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships. Photo by Zach Hooper/ Breckenridge Tourism Office.
Teams from around the world get to work starting Jan. 24, carving 12-foot tall, 20-ton blocks of snow into masterpieces at the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships. Photo by Zach Hooper/ Breckenridge Tourism Office.

Art comes in so many forms, but during Colorado’s winter it comes in the shape of snow and ice sculptures.

From the snow sculpture championships in Breckenridge that bring competitors from around the world to an evening bonfire in Berthoud to enjoy the warmth of an ice tower slowly melting away, Colorado’s winter provides an opportunity to enjoy a wonderland beyond the ski slopes. These spectacular winter events bring life to a cold, white canvas and the communities that host them.

Ice and snow sculpture events in Colorado

Berthoud SNOWFEST, Jan. 10-15, 2022, in Berthoud, Colorado

Because of warm temperatures in early winter, the town postponed its annual December event on Berthoud’s Main Street.

The event is now scheduled Jan. 10-15, 2022. Snow packing starts Jan. 10, and artists begin carving their blocks on Jan. 12.

On Jan. 15, enjoy vendor booths in Fickel Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bring your kids starting at 11 a.m. to learn how to carve using five-gallon snow blocks. The snow sculpture competition “people’s choice” voting is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 15, with awards presented that evening. The event schedule is subject to change. To get the latest information, visit the event’s webpage.

Wintersköl in Aspen, Jan. 13-16, 2022, in Aspen, Colorado

In 1951, this small town started an annual event as a “toast to winter.” Over the years, the four-day event held mountain activities, concerts, a bonfire and fireworks. Its free slogan button has become a visitor’s must-have souvenir.

The 2022 event will look a bit different due to the pandemic. It will be celebrated on Aspen’s four ski mountains and incorporate social distancing and other safety measures, including virtual events. The schedule has not yet been released but historically has included Wintersculpt, a 24-hour snow sculpture competition on the Mill Street Mall area.

Ouray Ice Festival and Competition, Jan. 20-23, 2022, in Ouray, Colorado

Although this festival doesn’t actually feature ice sculptures, it’s hard not to be awed by the beauty of the ice climbing park where the festival is mainly held.

During the winter months, 250 water sprinklers within the Uncompahgre Gorge bring to life a one-mile span of man-made ice walls and watching a climber conquer these colossal frozen masterpieces is electrifying.

This festival transforms the small town of Ouray into an ice-climbing mecca, with people from all over the world visiting and competing. All proceeds go to support the operational costs for Ouray Ice Park.

Breckenridge International Snow sculpture championships, Jan. 24 – Feb. 2, 2022, in Breckenridge, Colorado

Starting Jan. 24, competitors start carving 12-foot tall, 20-ton blocks of snow using only hand tools to bring to life an outdoor art gallery in historic downtown Breckenridge. Photo by Carl-Scofield / Breckenridge Tourism Office.
Starting Jan. 24, competitors start carving 12-foot tall, 20-ton blocks of snow using only hand tools to bring to life an outdoor art gallery in historic downtown Breckenridge. Photo by Carl-Scofield / Breckenridge Tourism Office.

Twelve teams from around the world get to work starting Jan. 24, carving 12-foot tall, 20-ton blocks of snow into masterpieces. They spend five days (about 96 hours) using only hand tools to bring to life an outdoor art gallery in historic downtown Breckenridge. Each day during carving week, the 11 a.m. sculpting competition begins with the blast of a canon.

The event is free to attend, and viewing week starts Jan. 28 and runs through 7 p.m. on Feb. 2. During that time, visitors can discover more about teams from the U.S., Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Mexico. Visitors also can learn about the sculpting process and other exciting facts about the art. Don’t forget to cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award.

During view week, the pieces are illuminated for 10 minutes on the hour and half hour, from 4:30 to 11 p.m.

Illuminated snow sculptures in downtown Breckenridge. Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Tourism Office.
Illuminated snow sculptures in downtown Breckenridge. Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Tourism Office.

Transportation and parking: Free parking is available on Airport Road. Shuttles run every 15 minutes via the Yellow Route. Stop “F-Lot” is closest to event headquarters, which most bus routes serve. Additional free parking is available at Colorado Mountain College on Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with free transportation to the event.

Dogs are allowed, but not on or around the public transit areas or in the warming hut. Beware, there are large crowds and other loud displays that could frighten your dog.

Rio Frio Ice Fest, Jan. 28-30 in Alamosa, Colorado

Rio Frio centers around a 5K event though visitors can check out the four ice sculptures on Alamosa’s Main Street. The displays adhere to the year’s event theme — so look for some “under the sea” work in 2022. Ice carving demonstrations are at noon, Jan. 29 and you can hang out that evening for the “fire and ice bonfire” that is sure to melt the ice tower.

Visit their website for a full schedule of events, including the “SoCo Ice Bowl” disc golf event, costume contest, polar plunge and ice carousel.

Steamboat winter carnival, Feb. 9-13, 2022, in Steamboat Spring, Colorado

This is a photo of snow sculptures of penguins.
Penguins represent the 2019 Winter Carnival theme, “Blast of Winter: Snow Play!”. Photo courtesy of Rory Clow, SSWSC.

The event highlights the western heritage and the town’s winter sports tradition. There is fun for the whole family. If temperatures are cool enough, the event also features ice sculptures. But you might want to see them earlier on in the carnival as the statues have melted relatively quickly in years past. Learn more about the carnival.

Check back next year for the…

Cripple Creek Ice Festival

Held annually from 2006 to 2020, this festival’s theme inspires the artists’ ice sculptures they carve from 160-pound blocks while the public watches the transformation. There are interactive sculptures to climb, and some made just for kids that sometimes include a slide or maze.

This fun festival that highlights artists and chainsaws was canceled in 2021 because of the pandemic. Funding shortfalls prevented it from returning in 2022, according to the city’s special projects director. Historically, it took place in February, and organizers hope it can return in the future.

Dillon Ice Castles

This annual winter attraction won’t occur this year because its previous location, Dillion’s Town Park, is under construction. The spokesperson for Ice Castles said the group is “confident the event will return to Colorado,” hopefully by winter 2022.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.

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