Fraser’s Fire and Ice Festival ready to host state snow sculpting championships
The second annual Fire and Ice Festival in Fraser will have a new attraction — the Colorado State Snow Sculpting Championship. The main event, which will run from 4-8 p.m. Feb. 11, will feature a DJ, the finished snow sculptures, a bonfire and fireworks.
Sculpting starts Feb. 8 for the six teams competing, including Team Snice, led by Keith Martin. Martin has captained the Breckenridge snow sculpting team for a few years at the International Snow Sculpture Championships, which are held each year in Breckenridge.
Snice, Martin’s carving company, combines “snow” and “ice” to get its name and carves creations for ski resorts and mountain towns.
“We get to build the world’s largest Alpine snow fort on top of Keystone,” Martin said. “We’ve been hanging off the front of the halfpipe and carving giant logos for ski resorts. We started carving, last year and this year, the largest maze that I’ve ever seen made out of snow. The adventure continues endlessly.”
During the first week of February, Martin and his team were in Wisconsin for the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship — a quick turnaround from the Breckenridge event that ran Jan. 23 to Feb. 1. In Breckenridge, Martin and his team went with what he called “an oldie but a goodie.”
“We did the Norwegian snow god,” Martin said. “His name is Ullr. Breckinridge was settled by the Norwegians, and they brought their beliefs and religions with them. So the Ullr Norwegian snow god has been part of the community for a long, long time.”
Ullr, who is honored with his own festival and a few sculptures in Breckenridge, brought Martin’s Breckenridge team second place in the competition. For the state championships in Fraser, Team Snice plans to sculpt a bear riding a snowmobile.
“The snowmobile is kind of doing a wheelie and the bear will be wearing his goggles and having a scarf flapping in the wind behind him,” Martin said. “It should be a really entertaining piece for people to walk up to and get a quick little chuckle.”
Events give competitors different timeframes and sizes of snow blocks to carve, which affects what teams may choose to carve, Martin said. It usually takes three to four days to carve a competition sculpture, although Martin said he could probably finish one in a single day with his years of experience.
“I really like to have a couple of days into it,” Martin said. “I like to have the first day to really wreck the block down to its basic shape, and then have the rest of the days to sit there and find the details and carve all the little intricacies that really make the sculpture pop and stand out.”
The town Berthoud had held the state championship prior to this year, and Martin highlighted a few things that excite him about having the competition in Fraser. He said he thinks the turnout will be great, because mountain towns love events and festivals that bring more people into the community and spur economic activity.
“For us sculptors, what’s exciting is it’s going to be cold and the snow is going to be dry,” Martin said. “It’s not going to be sunny and warm. If anything, it’s gonna be sunny and cold up there, and it allows us to pull off certain engineering aspects of carving snow that we will be able to have designs that have a lot more flair than what we can design down in the Front Range when it’s warm.”
The process of preparing the snow blocks takes a “whole army of people,” Martin said, and he expects having the competition in a mountain town well-acquainted with snow will help produce higher quality blocks. On the Front Range, Martin said competitions had issues with snow blocks melting too quickly, which caused the blocks to get dirty before carving began.
“It’s just not the same pristine quality that I’m expecting to see out of Fraser over the years coming,” Martin said. “It’s really exciting to be able to work with a town that has quality of snow and the equipment and the people to back it. That way we can do what we do, which is come in and create art.”
The Fire & Ice Festival will run Feb. 8-12, with the fireworks and bonfire event on Saturday night and the last day of sculpture viewing Sunday. All events will be held at the Lions Club Fishing Pond near the Safeway in Fraser, just off of U.S. Highway 40.
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