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Ice carvings bring magic to Old Town

Collegian | Samantha Nordstrom
Ice carver Thomas Barlow uses a chainsaw to smooth the curved edges of his igloo in Old Town Fort Collins Feb. 2. Barlow has been carving ice since he was 18 years old.

Old Town Fort Collins lit up with twinkling lights as people of all ages huddled around to see the wonder and whimsy of Thomas Barlow‘s ice sculpture carvings. 

Thomas Barlow has been carving ice for about 26 years — more than half of his life.


“We love showcasing things that people from all ages can enjoy and come down to see something that is actually happening in a live demonstration.” -Jala Curtis, Downtown Fort Collins business marketing and communications program supervisor

Barlow carved his two sculptures Feb. 2-3 with a chainsaw and no fear. One sculpture was an igloo accompanied by penguins, and the second showcased a winter landscape.

“Ice carving is a kitchen, culinary trait,” Barlow said. “It’s a lot like decorative work like cakes, chocolates, fruits and vegetables.”

Barlow is confident working with a variety of materials. He uses food, wood, sand and ice as his main mediums. 

Barlow uses the term “arresting the ice” to describe his carvings. 

“I think I stole it from somebody,” Barlow said. “There was a block of time where I was in Europe. We were holding something not against its will, but we are holding something fleeting.” 

Jala Curtis is the business marketing and communications program supervisor of Downtown Fort Collins. She took pictures and time-lapses for social media posts about the event.  

“It’s a very cool, unique, wintery form of art, and we really like showcasing different mediums of art in our downtown environment,” Curtis said. “We love showcasing things that people from all ages can enjoy and come down to see something that is actually happening in a live demonstration.”

Curtis was thrilled that this was kicking off the first Friday of the Downtown Art Walk.

“This is year No. 2 of the ice carving, and we are hoping to make it a tradition,” Curtis said. 


Families were pushed up against each other to see what all the fuss was about. 

“I love seeing all the little kids get all jumpy and excited,” Curtis said. 

James Vanegas worked with the owner of Struckman Sculpture Ice, Ted Struckman, to help move and clear space for the ice.

“We make a whole night of it,” Vengas said. “We take our wives or girlfriends out and grab a drink after.”

Vanegas was hauling the blocks of ice and shoveling the work for Barlow as well as bringing him water and making sure Barlow had everything he needed.

“It’s a serious workout,” Vengas said.

Peggy and Denis Chilton are members of the community who learned about the event through Facebook.

“We clicked ‘we’re interested,’ and so did some of our friends, and we were like, ‘Let’s do it!’” Peggy Chilton said. 

They came down to see it and stayed for the whole thing. 

“We didn’t plan it, but we even got dinner down here,” Denis Chilton said. Peggy Chilton was so excited, she had to move up to the rope to grab a glimpse of the carving. 

“How fun is this?” Peggy said. “I had to sneak up close to see what was going on.” 

Mike Sportiello, another intrigued Fort Collins local, came out to see the carving and was especially impressed by the lab-cut ice carvings.

“I like the ice spikes,” Sportiello said. “They look like a crown.” 

Sportiello used to teach at the University of Colorado Boulder but moved up to Fort Collins for a more community-based environment. 

“These people are just friendlier than they are in Boulder,” Sportiello said.

Lisa Sipres is a local landscape photographer who also learned about this event through the Facebook page.

“I went to the carving in Loveland, and thought I would come here and check this one out as well,” Sipres said. 

Sipres did laps throughout the event, looking for the perfect shot.

Reach Gwendolynn Riddoch at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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