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SCULPTURE COMPETITION First come the giant blocks of snow. When the 12-foot-tall, 25-ton giants appear in Breckenridge’s Riverwalk Center parking lot, they look like a strange, icy Stonehenge. Then the snow carvers arrive with their tools and get to work. Over the next five days, the blocks transform, growing appendages, caverns, textures, developing depth. The teams work through the night, squinting in the harsh strung-up electric lights, racing to make the deadline by morning of the fifth day.

This is the International Snow Sculpture Championships, a competition with global pull that takes place each winter in Breckenridge. This year, the event celebrates an important anniversary — 27 years of artistic creation, fierce competition and international acclaim.

ROB NEYLAND, AKA CARVIN’ MARVIN Every year, sometime in mid-winter, Rob Neyland’s mind is taken over by his alter ego, his evil twin, Carvin’ Marvin — Marvin calls the shots, and Marvin is smitten with whittling away at piles of white gold. “Oh my god, he is totally focused and pushes aside and makes a complete mess of the rest of my life because he

by Jessica Smith and Krista Driscoll

figures the snow sculpture is the most important, so I have to stuff him kicking and screaming back into the closet after each competition,” Neyland said.

Neyland has been feeding Marvin’s obsession with sculpting snow in Breckenridge since 1980, when the championships were still a no-name event, a sidebar to the town’s annual Ullr Fest.

“The whole thing came from a coin toss from Ullr Fest in 1980,” Neyland said. “We flipped a coin to decide if we’d do a snow sculpture, which we’d never done before, or do a float for the Ullr Parade. It came up heads, so we did a snow sculpture.”

Neyland and his team from Breckenridge Associates Real Estate continued to compete in the small, local competition,

winning back-to-back awards with different pieces.

“We won quite a few years in a row,” he said. “Then one day in 1985, a gentleman came along while we were working on our piece out in front of what is now Ember and he said, ‘Hey, you guys are pretty good. Have you ever thought about going to the nationals?’ And we said, ‘Holy crap — there are nationals? That, then and there, was when we were set on the course of: We need to elevate this art form for Breckenridge to make Breckenridge become known for this art form.”

Bringing an international-level snow sculpture competition to Breckenridge was no small task. In order to drum up support, Neyland and his team — dubbed Team Breck — spent four or five years establishing Breckenridge as a name associated with world-class snow sculpting.


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