Triumph Winterfest a bear affair |

Triumph Winterfest a bear affair

HL Winterfest 1 DT 1-13-11

VAIL – Polar bears may make the spirit soar, but they, themselves, do not. Soar, that is.

Local artist/architect Karl Krueger learned that when he entered a 800-pound polar bear made out of snow in last year’s dummy demolition derby. Krueger discovered that while bears might do all sorts of things in the national forest, flying is not one of them.

It crashed in spectacular style. You should’ve seen it.

That non-flying polar bear was built on a sawhorse-shaped frame, so he contacted Molly Eppard with Vail’s Art in Public Places program to ask if she wanted it.

She did.

They put it on Bridge Street and watched bemused people wander over to it, touch it and smile. Adults were amused by it. You couldn’t keep little kids away from it.

“People interact with the bears in ways they do not interact with bronze sculptures,” Krueger said.

And that, more or less, is how Krueger came to create five polar bear snow sculptures for this year’s Triumph Winterfest. The exhibit opens today in Vail Village.

“If you ask snow what it wants to be made into – it will tell you a polar bear. They are of the snow, and from the snow, and that is an idea simple and strong enough to explore,” Krueger said.

The polar bear is the poster child for environmentalists, and that’s great, Krueger said. But the Winterfest sculptures are not necessarily a political statement. They’re just cool, both literally and metaphorically, Krueger said.

These will be accurate depictions of polar bears doing polar bear stuff in their natural habitat, which does not include flying through the air on skis.

Krueger started studying and learned that polar bears only eat the blubber when they catch a seal. They have black skin under all that fur, so when the sun shines through all that white fur it heats up their skin. They tunnel into the snow to have their young.

The Winterfest polar bear sculptures will be lit in the evening by LEDs. Krueger collaborated with Pink Monkey Solutions to build lighting designs that would mimic the effect of holes in ice floes where polar bears do some of their hunting.

For the past three years, Triumph Development put up the money to promote the arts, part of its obligation to the town. This year Triumph is giving the money to do it as a donation to Vail’s Art in Public Places program. They didn’t have to, their obligation is fulfilled, but they did it anyway, Eppard said.

The last three years have been ice sculptures. Last year it was giant ice ears under the title, “Are You Listening.” Apparently we were, because Winterfest is back.

This year they went with Krueger and his polar bears. There’ll be five down on the Gore Creek Promenade, the snowy spot along the Gore Creek.

“I’ve always loved polar bears. Who doesn’t? There’s something very human about how they are,” Krueger said.

Lest you get the notion that anyone can pile up some snow and make a polar bear, Krueger creates them with wood and metal frames underneath. The snow is placed over a frame in painstaking detail. He started months ago with clay models, and ended up with the wood and metal structures.

Krueger is Celine’s son. She died a few years ago, but the late artist’s work lives on. You’ve seen it around for years.

Krueger was welding polar bear frames when we caught up with him. When he’s not sculpting polar bears, he runs Krueger Architecture.

“I knew it was in my blood. I was not necessarily interested in filling the blank page, but I was always interested in architecture because it gives you a problem to solve,” Krueger said.

Krueger was born and raised in the valley. He earned his masters in architecture from Yale University in 1998. His art works range from traditional oil paintings to mixed-media sustainable constructions.

“It’s good to see that family’s continuation of the fine arts in Vail,” Eppard said.

Vail Daily staff writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, or

What: Official opening and lighting of Triumph Winterfest Arctic.

When: 5:45 p.m. Friday.

Where: Gore Creek Promenade, Vail Village.

Cost: Free.

More information: Call 970-479-2344.

•-Jan. 16-30, Roxanne Granzow photography exhibition, town of Vail Public Library Community Room.

•-Jan. 17, 3:30 to 5 p.m., Storytelling and games outside at the Triumph Winterfest on the Gore Creek Promenade with the town of Vail Public Library; 5:30 to 7 p.m., Reception and meet the photographer Roxanne Granzow at the town of Vail Public Library Community Room.

•-Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m., Artist Karl Krueger presents “Arctic” with photographer Roxanne Granzow, town of Vail Public Library Community Room.

Local photographer Roxanne Granzow’s arctic photo exhibit is part of this year’s Winterfest.

“This is the first time we’ve included an educational component with the artistic component,” Eppard said.

Granzow moved to Vail in the 1970s and has traveled to the Arctic four times.

Granzow’s exhibit opens Sunday at the Vail public library. There’s a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday at the library where she’ll have some stories and tales about her Arctic expeditions.

Her images capture polar bears in their natural environment, and are often a tool for teaching about the Arctic. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Granzow’s photographs will benefit Polar Bears International.

Krueger and Granzow will appear together at the Vail library, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26, to talk about the Fourth Annual Triumph Winterfest, their works and their time among polar bears, both living and artistic.

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