Mongolia Takes Top Honors at the International Snow Sculpture Championships

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the 23rd Annual International Snow Sculpture Championships kicked off at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Fifteen teams took part in the five-day competition, which involved roughly 65 hours of work; in some cases, the artists worked throughout the night to render eye-popping masterpieces from the solid, machine-made snow. Prior to the event, teams are given blocks of snow that weigh as much as 20 tons and rise 12 feet into the air; they must complete their sculptures without the aid of power tools, internal support structures, or coloring agents.

On Jan. 26, judges announced the winners: Team Mongolia, for their stunning portrayal of horseback warriors riding into battle. “Team Mongolia evoked the furious energy of galloping across the Mongolian steppe,” Judge Coordinator and Breckenridge Arts District Administrator Jenn Cram told The Huffington Post. “The piece is powerful with its deliberate attention to detail and the dynamic alignment of planes.” The 2013 competition marked Mongolia’s first ICCS appearance.

Team Spain placed second for ‘Banyista Nua’, a cubist tribute to Pablo Picasso, while ‘Koit’, a minimalist depiction of two angels kissing beneath the moonlight, helped Team Estonia win third place. The other participants included Team Great Britain-Wales, whose ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ portrayed cartoonish figures engaged in immorality; Team Argentina, whose ‘Caracola’ represented a tall conch shell resting on its side; and Team USA, whose ’8 Seconds to Glory’ depicted a bull-rider clinging to his bucking mount for dear life. Two entries — Australia’s ‘Emu Egg’ and Iceland’s ‘Lopapeysa’ — were both hollow, oval-shaped installations rendered from a single block of snow and adorned with intricate patterns. And Team Canada — winner of the ‘Kid’s Choice Award’ — sculpted ‘An Inuit Morality Tale’, a terrifyingly realistic depiction of a mauling death at the hands of a ferocious polar bear. The installations are available for public viewing until 10 p.m. on Sunday, Feb 3.

The International Snow Sculpting Championships have been a Breckenridge institution since 1990, when a group of carvers dubbed Team Breck partnered with municipal officials and the resort to launch the inaugural contest. Participation is voluntary, and first place finishers do not receive any sort of cash-based award for their winning artwork. To see a full gallery of this year’s entries, please visit the ICCS Facebook page. For more information about the competition, please visit the official ICCS website; also be sure to check out the calendar of events and activities that take place at Breckenridge Ski Resort throughout the year.

By Brad Nehring