Vail’s Triumph Winterfest returns |

Vail’s Triumph Winterfest returns

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
HL triumph sculpture 2 KA 01-13-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Ice sculptures aren’t meant to last forever, and it’s that sense of urgency that entices artist Scott Rella to create them.

“It demands to be seen right now,” Rella said.

Rella and his crew, Paul Wertin and Rob Capone, have spent days sculpting ice on the Gore Creek Promenade in Vail for the Triumph Winterfest. The $40,000 project was funded by private donors and organized by the town of Vail’s Art in Public Places program.

Denver artist Lawrence Argent ” best known for “I See What You Mean,” a 30-foot blue bear sculpture outside the Denver Convention Center ” collaborated with Rella to design the piece. Titled “Conduit,” the sculpture is a large seashell atop a 9-foot wall of ice with incrementally shorter walls of ice spiraling out from it.

“I loved the idea of doing a big shell, but I wanted to also have something that drew you into the shell, so that’s where we came up with this spiraling wall,” Rella said.

Both artists are inspired by Colorado’s geological history. The seashell design stemmed from a desire to tie the state’s past to its present. Roughly 70 million years ago, shallow seas alternately invaded and retreated across Colorado, creating the Rocky Mountains we know today. Seashells can often be found on hiking trails throughout the mountains as seabed remains, according to the artist’s design proposal for the town of Vail.

On Friday night, the sculpture will be unveiled to the public during a lighting ceremony near Gore Creek Promenade. Each ice wall will be illuminated from beneath by color-changing LED lights during the public ceremony.

“It’s great to see during the day and the night. … There’s a firepit close by, so even if it’s a cold night, there’s possibilities to warm up,” said Leslie Fordham, coordinator for Art in Public Places. “Then there’s the question of how long will it last.”

But that’s always the question. Last year, Rella and Argent worked together to create the “Verdant Meadows” ice sculpture in Vail, and it lasted only a few months before warm weather wore it down to an indiscernible shape.

“Conduit” will face similar challenges, but if weather remains as cold as it has thus far this season, the sculpture could hang around until April.

Rella has worked with ice for 21 years, he said.

“I just get bored with static mediums,” Rella said. “I went to the New York Academy of Art, and I’ve done marble and clay and paintings, and I just like the medium of ice because it’s like a living art form. … When I first started doing it, I just fell in love with it.”

Argent said he wasn’t as comfortable with ice as Rella but that he’s getting used to it.

“The medium of ice is very different for me, but it’s a lot of fun,” Argent said.

And the fact that the two were brought together for another project allowed them to expand upon the creativity they shared on last year’s project.

“Now we kind of have an understanding of each other. … We’ve become very good friends and understand one another and understand where we each come from and utilizing the expertise of what each of us can put together to create something that I think will ultimately be unique,” Argent said.

High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

What: Triumph Winterfest ice sculpture unveiling.

When: Friday at 6 p.m.

Where: Gore Creek Promenade, near the International Bridge in Vail.

Cost: Free.

More information: For more information, call 970-479-2344 or visit

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