View snow sculptures and learn tips from the pros at winter carnivals

Snow sculpting 101

Like the kid in the tub who makes a beard out of shampoofoam, there's a bit of the sculptor inside us all. For suchartistes of the ephemeral, it's hard to find a more malleable― or more fun ― medium than snow. It's plentiful, free,easy to work with, and the sculpting techniques require little inthe way of special gear. Unlike sculpting ice, carving packed snowis a breeze and repairing a mistake is simple. And while a snowcreation may lack the detailing and polish of one made of ice, itcan be just as impressive.

For inspiration, check out what the pros can do with a pile ofsnow at one of the snow-sculpting events happening at wintercarnivals around the West. Their sculptures vary from therepresentational, such as a giant fishing cat or an owl flyingabove a tiny city, to free-form modern art.

One of the biggest events, the International Snow SculptureChampionships, will be held January 27 to February 1 in Breckenridge, Colorado. Thiscontest draws artists from around the world who spend six daysmaking works of art from 12-foot-tall, 30-ton blocks of hand-packedsnow. They scrape, chisel, and shape using only hand tools (unlikeice sculptors, who often rely on power tools).

Visit while the artists are at work, and you can chat with thesculptors to pick up a few carving secrets. If their artistry seemsdauntingly complex, be sure to visit the children's sculpturecompetition area on the Riverwalk Center lawn ― the works aresmaller in scale and perhaps less intimidating to those interestedin trying snow sculpting. For two weeks after the competition― or at least until the first warm day ― the sculpturesremain on display in an open-air gallery at the RiverwalkCenter.

Of course, you'll probably want to start your own snow-sculptingcareer with something simpler. Tom Day, a Breckenridge real estatebroker and snow sculptor, helps us lay out the process step bystep. We found that you can easily do it in your own backyard andthat it's just as simple as and far more satisfying than piling upyet another lumpy snowman. And while your finished work may gleamlike the purest of white marble, it will, like winter itself, meltaway all too soon.

Winter Wonderlands
Call ahead before leaving home ― these events aresubject to weather conditions.

International Snow Sculpture Championships. Jan 27-Feb 1;free. Riverwalk Center; or (970)453-6018.

Snowdown Festival. Jan 28-Feb 1; sculpting contest (MainAve. and Fifth St.) free. or (970)259-2606.

Wyoming Snow Sculpting Competition. Feb 18-22; free. WyomingTerritorial Park; www.wyoprisonpark.orgor (800) 788-4626.

McCall Winter Carnival. Jan 30-Feb 8; sculpting contest (Jan30 and Feb 3-6) free, fee for other events. Lake and Third Streets;www.skiwhitepass.comor (509) 672-3101.

Jasper in January Ice Sculpture Event. Jan 16-18; free.Parks Canada Lawn (downtown); www.skijaspercanada.comor (800) 473-8135.

Kokanee Winter Festival. Jan 12-18; free. Mt. WashingtonAlpine Resort, 31 miles south of Campbell River, off ProvincialHwy. 19; www.mountwashington.caor (888) 231-1499.

Vernon Winter Carnival. Feb 6-15; contest (Feb 6-8) free.Silver Star Mountain Ski Resort, Silver Star Rd. 14 miles northeastof Vernon; www.vernonwintercarnival.comor (250) 545-2236.

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