Vail Winterfest: Ice sculptures to be unveiled at grand opening |

Vail Winterfest: Ice sculptures to be unveiled at grand opening

The 15th annual Vail Winterfest opens Sunday, unveiling an ice sculpture installation designed by artist Olive Moya

Jake Proffit, of Alpine Ice Sculpture, pieces together one of the sculptures designed by Olive Moya.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

The grand opening of the 15th annual Vail Winterfest is taking place from 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday at the International Bridge in Vail Village.

Art in Public Places will be unveiling the ice sculpture installations created by artist Olive Moya in collaboration with sculptors from Alpine Ice Sculpture.

The collaboration was inspired by the first Winterfest, which ​​featured installations visualized by renowned artist Lawrence Argent.

Moya is a celebrated visual artist based out of Denver who recently installed a new mural in the Vail Transportation Center in May. When Art in Public Places reached out to see if she wanted to design the Winterfest collaboration, she was excited to translate her style into a new format.

“When they asked me about the ice sculpture, it was definitely something different to have to think about translating my work to 3D, but I have been really interested and wanting to get into some sort of sculpture anyway, so it was fun.”

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Moya’s work consists of abstract shapes and lines in sharp colors, and she often blends these abstract pieces with photographs. In order to bring her painted creations to life in ice, she worked closely with Paul Wertin, the owner of Alpine Ice Sculpture.

Moya in front of the mural that she installed in the Vail Transportation Center in May.
Art in Public Places/Courtesy photo

​​”The shapes couldn’t just exist willy nilly, like how I usually paint them,” Moya said. “I’m oftentimes very instinctual about how I make marks, but obviously physics didn’t allow that. So that’s where Paul came in, and luckily he was great at knowing how to keep the same flow and feeling while making sure that it can stay up.”

The resulting installation consists of six separate ice sculptures ranging from 5 to 12 feet tall that are located along the creek near the International Bridge in Vail Village. The sculptures form the blob-like shapes and squiggly lines that define Moya’s painting style. By dispersing the shapes through the village scenery, the installation is like a live version of how she overlays paint on top of photographs.

“The installation can exist almost as a living version of my work with photographs — the figures and landscape interacting with the abstract,” Moya said. “I’m definitely aware of the fact that whatever I’m covering up or highlighting is very important. I think it’s super interesting how we hold on to places and find ownership because we have a specific memory there, so then creating these sculptures was like creating a live version of that. Inevitably people will take photos with them, which continues this whole cycle of place and memory.”

Color is a central element of Moya’s work that is used to differentiate between interacting shapes and patterns. Since this was not possible to do with ice, Wertin had to figure out a different way to achieve a similar effect.

“Olive’s work is form and color, and we can get color through LED lighting, but not the color separations within one piece that we would like to do,” Wertin said. “So we really stayed with form, and to represent the changes she did with color, we did it with texture.”

Wertin and his team cut the shapes out of 90 blocks of ice weighing 300 pounds each, and brought each of the separate pieces to Vail Village this week to assemble in the installation space.

Wertin and his team assemble the sculptures piece by piece in Vail Village.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

“We cut all of the pieces ahead of time, and out here we just put the Legos together,” Wertin said.

The installation process was delayed due to the warm weather, so the grand opening on Sunday will only reveal four or five of the sculptural pieces, but Wertin says they will be finished by midweek. The sculptures will remain installed until they melt.

“This is a great space,” Wertin said. “It keeps shade for a long time, and it’s very cool next to the creek, so unless we get a crazy weather event and it gets really hot — or God forbid it rains — they’ll last well into February.”

Illumination of the ice sculptures will begin daily at dusk and remain lit until 10 p.m.

Moya and Wertin will be present at the grand opening to talk about the installation and mingle with community members. The event will also feature live music, complimentary hot chocolate and a lantern display that includes paper lanterns designed by Moya alongside a display of over 100 luminarias created by local children.

The grand opening will feature a display of over 100 luminarias created by local children.
Art in Public Places/Courtesy photo

Community members are also invited to participate in one of three free lantern-making workshops that will be taking place at Vail Public Library at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday. Reservations for the workshops can be made by contacting Art in Public Places Coordinator Molly Eppard at or 970-479-2344.

There are also complementary lantern kits available at the Vail Village Welcome Center through Dec. 26. People are encouraged to create their own lanterns, and then hang them on the designated shepherd hooks on the International Bridge for all to enjoy through the holiday season.

If you go …

What: 15th annual Vail Winterfest grand opening

Where: International Bridge in Vail Village

When: 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday

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