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Loveland snow sculptors compete at national competition

Colorado gets hundreds of inches of snow every year, so it only makes sense that we use it as an art form.

two people pose with a clay sculpture.
Steve Mercia, Kerri Ertman and Alex Amys (not pictured) made up Colorado Team 3 at the US National Snow Sculpting Competition. Here, Mercia and Ertman pose with the clay design of their sculpture “Peace Within.” Parts of the sculpture ended up being hundreds of pounds and requires patience and focus to work with. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

From Jan 29 to Feb 4, temperatures were frigid in Lake Geneva, Wisc. at the 2018 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. Three of the 15 snow sculpting teams were from Colorado, which was a first at the competition as there has only been one Colorado team in previous years.


Colorado Team Three was determined to find a winning place at the competition with their idea entitled “Peace Within,” a sculpture featuring a tree base with a giant heart and detailed birds flying all around it. Competitors had two days to build the starting snow block and then just three days to turn it into something extraordinary.

“The conditions may be miserable for people, but they are perfect for sculpting, I thought all the designs were pretty impressive. The competition was pretty steep and everyone brought their A-game for sure.” Kerri Ertman, artist

“I’ve dabbled in ice sculpting, but I like snow better; it is a very forgiving medium,” said artist and Colorado State Snow Sculpting Competition co-founder Steve Mercia. “There’s architecture involved as well. Snow is pretty heavy and if stuff isn’t freezing, you could have a problem.”

It was Mercia’s fifth time at the national competition, while it was a first for his teammate Kerri Ertman. The third team member, Alex Amys, had also been before. Snow sculpting has taken Mercia to competitions all over the world to places like Italy, Japan, China and Switzerland, where he has received a couple “people’s choice” awards for his designs.

    • 3 Colorado teams qualified for the 2018 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition.
    • Colorado Team 3 was a fan favorite with their sculpture “Peace Within.”
    • Lake Geneva, Wisc. had frigid temps perfect for detailed sculptures.


The wind-chill and humidity were brutal at Lake Geneva, and this team was grateful for being placed by a wind block; otherwise, their design could have gone south.

a snow sculpture with a heart and birds.
The finished sculpture, “Peace Within.” Although temperatures were freezing, it allowed competitors to add more detail to their work. A taxidermied pigeon named Petey helped Colorado Team 3 design the dozens of birds in their piece. (Photo courtesy of Kerri Ertman)

“The conditions may be miserable for people, but they are perfect for sculpting,” Ertman said. “I thought all the designs were pretty impressive. The competition was pretty steep and everyone brought their A-game for sure.”

To compete, teams must think of an original design to sculpt, and Mercia had no problem pulling a design

from his “bag of tricks.” The sculpture, “Peace Within” has been in Mercia’s mind since 2009. He has been told it’s one of the best pieces he has done and is happy he and his team did it justice.

So how does a snow sculpting competition go down? Teams arrive in Wisconsin on Tuesday, where competition rules are stated, and teams can begin building their starting blocks. No power tools are allowed, only tools such as cheese graters, various hand saws, Ginsu knives or other tools teams can think of. Teams can carve from six to 10 hours a day, but Friday is when the marathon starts.


“There were about five teams who chose to work through the night, including us,” Mercia said. “We knew that it was going to be a challenge to get to certain points in our piece, and cutting out designs always take a little longer than expected.”

a team building a snow sculpture.
Pictured here is the beginning stages of “Peace Within”. Mercia likes people to create their own interpretation of his pieces, as he says he doesn’t always like to convey messages that are easy to read. (Photo courtesy of Kerri Ertman)

During the competition, things did not always go as planned. On the first night, while her teammates were building the starting block, Ertman earned the name “Chip,” from losing a tooth and her phone after slipping on an icy bridge.

“I was bummed it happened on the first night of competition, but my teammates taught me to laugh at the situation,” Ertman said.

After grueling hours in the elements, judging begins, an awards ceremony is held with a reception following and then teams can finally go home and rest up. Mercia and Ertman consider snow sculpting a sport, considering the physical toll of sculpting, along with the teamwork and the fellowship built with other teams.

In addition to sculpting for competition, Mercia hopes to reach out to the younger people to educate them about art and all the unique mediums you can work with, especially snow.

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at and on Twitter @sarahehrlich96.

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