Creating the Coolest Kind of Art at the Cripple Creek Ice Festival

    What’s it like to carve a 300-pound block of ice? We talk with ice artist Keith Martin ahead of the annual Cripple Creek Ice Festival.

    Cripple Creek Ice Festival sculpture
    Photo courtesy Keith Martin of Snice Carvings

    Each winter, Cripple Creek closes its main street to host the literally cool Ice Festival. Carvers, there by invitation only, huddle in the center of the tiny mountain town, chiseling and sawing their designs out of 300-pound blocks of ice, more than 100 each in all. “We’re a certain breed of humans,” says Durango-based carver Keith Martin of Snice Carvings. “We’re all passionate about what we’re doing, so it’s amazing what we put our bodies through.”

    Snice Carvings team in Cripple Creek Ice Festival sculpting oversized bugs
    Snice Carvings team in the annual Cripple Creek Ice Festival, sculpting oversized insects. Photo courtesy Keith Martin, Snice Carvings.

    This year’s theme is Carver’s Choice, setting the stage for a wide variety of creations. Martin is hopeful about oversized insects. “I told my team to pick a bug they’re enthusiastic about,” he says. “Our insects will be propped onto a center support piece of flowers, like a sunflower and maybe a lily.” He expects the sculpture to be 12-feet-tall, short enough to stay in the shadows of the buildings. “I’ve learned from my mistakes,” says the 25-year veteran of snow and ice art.

    See a gallery of the team’s work below. Initial sculptures were completed by Feb. 8, but visitors to the free festival can watch the carvers in action all week adding any finishing touches. The public will vote to determine the People’s Choice award and cash prize. At night, the sculptures are lit up. The festival ends Feb. 16, but the ice sculptures will remain on display until Feb. 28 if cold weather cooperates. “I call it temporary art,” Martin says. “There’s a special quality knowing it won’t last forever. There’s no real difference in that and the human life.”

    Find details about the Cripple Creek Ice Festival at visitcripplecreek.com.

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