For 10 days every winter, thousands of visitors make their way to the small mountain city of McCall. Winter Carnival is well underway.
Snow and ice sculptures cover the city streets of McCall, but at Depot Park there's tough competition. Snow artists from around the west are working long hours in the Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championships.
Robere Kazadi is one of them.
"I've been doing this for 13 years now," Kazadi said.
This year, the Eagle man and his teammate Patt Duynslager are creating a grandfather clock.
"We came up with this idea last year at the end of the competition, so we've been thinking about it for about 12 months. Hopefully it comes out," Kazadi said.
The clock is ticking. Teams in the state championship start with a big block of packed snow Tuesday afternoon and have until Friday morning to chisel and chip it away, turning it into a piece of art.
The McCall city competition last week was free game, with no size limits to sculpture design or amount of team members, teams could add color with lights and take their time building. But the state championship is much more restrictive.
"No power tools. No armatures. An armature is taking a 2x4 and extending it out, packing it with snow and making it look like it's a bridge or something. You can't do that. We're all given the same size block, 5x5x10 feet tall. It's up to the artist to take that and turn it into something," Kazadi said.
It takes some muscle from the three-person teams and the perfect temperature.
"We've had a few years where it's warmed up into the low 30s and it is not ideal at all. The snow gets real soft, you can almost scrape it away with your hand and it turns into a slush. And we've also had years when the sculpture fell down because it's just too warm. When it's cold you can get more detail on it and more intricate and delicate. Somewhere in the teens between 10 to 20 degrees is ideal," Kazadi said.
Kazadi and his team use a variety of tools to carve away the masterpiece, some of them homemade. Most of the artists return to McCall year after year, and they all quickly become friends within the tight sculpting quarters. They all agree, the smiles at the end of the week are the best part.
"Friday morning it's an absolute zoo in here. I've seen 300 people in here and they love it. Everyone brings their kids. The sculptures are all finished at that point and looking great. People have a great time," Kazadi said.
The snow sculptures will be judged Friday morning at 10:00. The winner is invited to nationals next winter. The McCall Winter Carnival wraps up Sunday, February 5. For more information visit www.mccallchamber.org.