Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Chilly Chiselers Brought Pirate Ships and More to Life in Days of Yore
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The Wood River Special, as it was titled, won first place in the competition the year it emerged.
   
Monday, February 15, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS COURTESY OF LYNN FLICKINGER

The train may have been built of snow, but it emitted smoke through its smokestack. And a pirate ship looked as if its cannons had fired.

That was the stuff of Sun Valley snow sculpting competitions in days gone past.

 
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The Buccaneer special was made to as if someone could actually fire its cannons.
 

Held around the time of Martin Luther King Day, it was like a miniature McCall Winter Carnival—one more thing to enchant visitors when they came to town.

“We really didn’t know what we were doing—we didn’t have any artists on our team, although we did have an architect,” recalled Ketchum resident Lynn Flickinger. “We just felt our way along as we cut away at the blocks of snow with a chainsaw and used buckets of slush to add things. It was really comical, but it turned out okay.”

Our Lady of the Snows—the team Flickinger was part of--won the contest all four years that it was held in the late 1980s.

“It was great fun. The good old days,” she said.

 
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The Wood River Special even blew smoke out its smokestack.
 

The Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber came up with the idea, enlisting a handful of competitors each year, including the Ketchum Fire Department.

Each team had a week to build their sculpture.

Wendy Jaquet, who headed up the Chamber at the time, joined her husband Jim, Martha and Curtis Page and other members of the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood the first year to sculpt a person in a bath tub with the caption "cleanliness next to godliness."

"We didn't win but had a good time," she said.

 
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One year Our Lady built a Norman Rockwell scene with horses and a sleigh.
 

In the case of the train, Boy Scouts were recruited to help the build the base. Then 10 adults took over, piling slush made by mixing snow and water into large blocks.

They built wooden frames to shape the blocks. Some people would shovel snow into the wooden frames, then others would climb in and stomp the snow down. Then they’d spray the blocks with hoses so that the snow would freeze hard.

They used fire extinguishers to make it appear that smoke was coming out the smokestack after incense didn’t work.

“We worked nights so it would freeze hard and be ready to work on the next night,” Flickinger said. “Our snow pants got wet and froze so that we couldn’t bend our legs. And our gloves would freeze solid.

 
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Recognize any of these? From left to right we’re looking at Curtis Kemp, a mystery lady, Lynn and Rick Flickinger and Becky and Bob Dittmer.
 

“It was really cold and hard work but so much fun. Father Wilson was here then and he would collect our gloves and put them in his dryer to keep us warmed up, and he would buy us pizza to keep us going.”

One year, Flickinger recalled, there was very little snow. So, a trucker friend collected shavings scraped off the Sun Valley Ice Rink by the Zamboni and brought them to the church.

“Of course, the competition was fierce and we would all try to keep our designs under wraps as long as we could,” she added.

For their efforts, the team got a $250 cash prize and their names on a plaque. But, with the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber disbanded, no one knows where that plaque is now. The snow sculpting competition ran for four years, then was discontinued after the year with little snow and a late January thaw.

“It’s too bad because it was really fun and the visitors seemed to enjoy it,” Flickinger said. “And we learned that we had talent we had no idea we had.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Back in the 1980s the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber also sponsored a New Year's Eve bonfire in the street across from Ketchum Town Square and a cross country ski race around Irving's Hot Dog Hill.


 

 

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