Wolcott ice sculpture mostly about plumbing | VailDaily.com

Wolcott ice sculpture mostly about plumbing

NWS Ice Thing SM 3-17

WOLCOTT – It’s not a geyser, and it’s not mystical.It’s the big ice sculpture in Carl and Denise Lipp’s pasture at Wolcott. Standing about 30 feet tall these days, the tower of ice is seen by thousands of people a day as they drive along Interstate 70. A number of those people stop to take pictures, and several of them end up in the Lipps’ driveway.”One Sunday a woman drove up and got her three kids out of the car,” Carl Lipp said. “She sat ’em on the fence, took a few pictures and then said, ‘C’mon, let’s go!'”There’s at least one active urban myth about the sculpture, too.”I know there’s a Colorado Mountain Express driver who tells people its a geyser,” Denise Lipp said. Like a lot of stories, the truth about the big ice thing isn’t all that exciting. The Lipps’ home gets its water from a spring on the other side of I-70. There’s some exposed pipe from the spring to the house, and the ice sculpture is just fed by a line from the spring to keep the main line from freezing.

The small line runs up the frame and, as the weather cools in the early winter, ice forms on and around the frame. As the water runs and freezes, it’s not long before something big takes root in the pasture.”I wish there was more to it, but there isn’t,” Carl said.Running the relief line up a frame was actually the idea of Denise’s dad, Chris Jouflas. Carl, an iron sculptor, then took the idea and ran with it.The frame usually goes up in November, and the water starts to freeze in earnest in December. Until the tower really gets going, the horses like to drink from the line, Denise said. Even when spring is in full bloom, the ice sculpture hangs on.”We’ll have a white spot on the ground until June most years,” Denise said.And, as the water melts, it ends up where water from the spring would go anyway: either on the pasture, or into an irrigation ditch that empties into the Eagle River.Depending on how the spring flows and what kind of frame gets put up the ice sculpture can be spectacular. A photo of the sculpture from 1997 looks like an explosion caught in mid-bang. Another year, the flowing water froze into something that looked like an angel.

While the Lipps call the big ice thing a sculpture, nature does most of the sculpting. Once the frame is in place, whatever happens, happens.There’s a man with an ice sculpture near Georgetown Carl’s heard about who takes his winter tower pretty seriously.”I’ve heard he goes out and does something with his every day,” Carl said. “We don’t do that.”While the big ice thing at Wolcott is a come-what-may affair, Carl is a little apologetic about this year’s effort. Life got a little complicated, so he wasn’t able to get much put up last fall. Now, though, he’s shooting for height. Looking up at the tower of ice not far from the living-room windows, Carl looked up and said, “I’d like to get it to 60 feet.”Maybe next year.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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