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Breckinridge, Colorado: Winters Playground

Colorado's Coolest Snow Sculpture Championships

by Jessica Howell

Just as it does all over the world, winter arrives with a crisp air to Breckinridge, Colorado. Only here, unlike many destinations, it's a celebrated occasion. The height of winter festivities peak for one wonderful week in January, when artists from around the globe gather to display their talents in friendly competition at the annual International Snow Sculpture Championships.

Downtown Breckenridge, Colo.
Downtown Breckenridge, Colo.

In the epicenter of downtown, between Main Street and Park Avenue, teams from far-flung destinations including China, Russia, France and Germany, collide in a flurry of action. Here, they will spend hour upon hour bringing to life their icy depictions.
Annually attended by more than 30,000 people, the Breckinridge winter festival will mark its 18th anniversary in 2008.

During the five-day festival, teams of four work to carve 12-foot tall, 20-ton blocks of machine-made snow into intricate works of pure whimsy using chisels, saws, chicken wire and even carrot scapers. Power tools? Nope — those aren't allowed. From elephants, people and organically-inspired shapes, nothing is off-limits when it comes to creative snow canvases.

Wide-eyed gawkers gaze as they make their way through town, marveling at the skill of nature's crafters. Best of all? It's free. After 65 laborous hours, the sculptures are judged by a panel of artists and patrons who award first, second and third place honors. However, the best reward available is the crowd's hard-earned appreciation.

Creating snow sculptures
Creating snow sculptures

To explore the previous years of snow-filled fun, visitors can stop by the Snow Sculpture Headquarters, where they'll find souvenirs, trivia and a detailed history of snow sculptures in Colorado. If you're heading to Breckinridge for the winter festival, also plan your trip around the annual Ullr Fest — a weeklong ode to Norse, the mythical god of Snow. Besides the Main Street parade and pub crawls, Norse brings with him an unbeatable ice skating party and a city that rivals any other for the best of parties.

IF YOU GO...

Free public transportation is available throughout the town from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, provided by the Breckenridge FREE RIDE. Maps are available at Event Headquarters, Information Centers, Breckenridge Station and on each bus and trolley. The closest bus stop to Event Headquarters is the F-Lot, which is serviced by most bus routes.

To find a Breckinridge hotel, click here.

Learn more about the festival and fun winter options.

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