The force is strong at Beaver Creek |

The force is strong at Beaver Creek

JW Busby, a ski patroller for the past 35 years, created a snow sculpture of Yoda from Star Wars atop the Centennial Express Lift at Beaver Creek. He began building it in mid-February and expects it to last through the end of the season.
Ross Leonhart | rleonhart@vailda

BEAVER CREEK — Do or do not, there is no try.

That’s the message next to the snow sculpture of Yoda atop Beaver Creek Mountain near the Cinch Express Lift, and JW Busby is the man behind the massive Star Wars character made of snow.

“It was just a spontaneous thing,” said Busby, who has been with ski patrol for 35 years and sculpting masterpieces since 1983. “I didn’t realize the impact that it would have on the kids. Everybody’s a Star Wars fan. Kids just connect with Yoda.”

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Busby is a one-man team, with a little help from Beaver Creek’s snowcat crews, snowmakers and ski patrol. He starts in mid-February by bulldozing a pile of snow “the size of a house” with a snowcat and then works from the top down with only four tools: two shovels, a homemade finishing tool and 80-grit sandpaper.

“It’s fun,” Busby said. “If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be doing it because I do it all for nothing.”

Yoda will continue to stick around through the end of the season, Busby said.

“I’ve dug this thing out like three times now,” he said, adding that a leaf blower proves to be very effective clearing away snow. “It’ll be here until the mountain closes. He melts right back into the ground.”

The green face is sprayed with colored water, and the eyes have quarters in them Busby used to layer together.

“There’s a dollar that’s going to be laying on the ground when it all melts away,” Busby said, sadly thinking about winter’s end.


Busby, who turns 68 years old on Closing Day, April 10, has done all sorts of sculptures each year at Beaver Creek, from Old Man Winter to a family of bears to Bambi.

The force was strong with Andrew Alegi, 9, of Minnesota, on Monday at Beaver Creek. He’s a big Star Wars fan, along with his sister, Grace, 7. Next year, Andrew wants to see a Chewbacca sculpture, while Grace votes for the Rey character.

“We’ll come up with something,” Busby said.

Beaver Creek closes Sunday, April 10, so there’s time to unlearn what you have learned.

“To get off the top of Beaver Creek Mountain and be confronted with a 15-foot-tall Yoda, it’s overwhelming,” Busby said.

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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