Steamboat Springs Local high school students aren't the only ones who compete for a chance to participate in Winter Carnival's annual snow-sculpting contest.
"There are more businesses that would like to sponsor that just can't," said Tracy Barnett, executive director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs. "It's just the tradition and the community spirit - and they think it's cool."
Lincoln Avenue businesses pay $50, which goes into a school activity fund, to have a snow sculpture placed in front of their business. There are far more businesses willing to pony up that amount than the two dozen spots available, but businesses that have sponsored for years, such as Rabbit Ears Motel, get first dibs.
Teams of four to eight students from Steamboat Springs High School and Christian Heritage School participate in the contest. Steamboat Spring High School teams that want to be selected must first turn in a conceptual sketch of their sculptures. A panel selects the winners, which span all high school classes.
Mike Campbell, a counselor at Steamboat Springs High School who has worked with the teams for 20 years, said the contest is popular among students and that the panel is forced to turn down many would-be participants. Campbell said the panel chooses "the sculptures that represent the (Winter Carnival) theme the best and are the most feasible." This year's theme is "A Celebration of Community."
The sculpture process begins the Wednesday night of Winter Carnival, when Steamboat Springs High School Athletics Director Richard Lee sets up wooden forms on Lincoln Avenue. City workers drive loaders up and down the street filling the forms with snow, which are packed down to make for good carving the next day. On Thursday, the winning students, who must be academically eligible, get an excused absence from school to work on their sculptures.
"They play a little music and the store owners often will bring them cookies and hot chocolate," Lee said. "It's a real cordial day. : My favorite part is the day of the actual carving because it's just really a positive experience."
The joy of being out of school often turns to frustration when snow sculpting proves more difficult than the students realized. Campbell said one or two sculptures fall apart every year.
When a sculpture falls, Campbell said students have to look at what's left and decide what they can make out of it, usually something flat like a turtle. Campbell said these improvised sculptures sometimes turn out to be the best ones.
In the end, Steamboat Springs is graced with several sculptures that will line Lincoln Avenue throughout Winter Carnival. Campbell said the contest is more about the process than the result.
"It's good for our community and for our kids to work with the businesses," he said.