Each January in Breckenridge, Colorado, teams of people from around the world are selected to carve giant blocks of snow into fantastic creatures, scenes, or shapes. Competitors are given a 12-foot, 25-ton cube of snow packed by local volunteers. The snow blocks are created by stomping atop the snow in a town-wide event called “Stomping Week.”
This is the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships, an annual tradition since 1990. Though 250 teams are originally invited to compete, only the top 16 are actually selected to participate. Armed with saws, cheese graters, sanding blocks, ladders, other homemade tools, and warm clothes, they have 65 hours to craft their chunk of snow into a full-sized sculpture—all without the use of power tools or any kind of internal support. Frozen water can be used to add artistic elements, but not as a means of support.
The four-person teams race against time and daily temperature fluctuations to complete their masterpieces. The sculptures are judged at 10 a.m. on the fifth day of the competition, but only those that are still standing are considered. On the final night of the competition, the artists work around the clock to add their final touches.
The snowy works of art range from bold, fantastic creatures to beautiful, delicate abstract creations. Though they seem like ephemeral wintery structures, they’re all cleared away by the middle of February.