Captain Andy and the whale

Jan 20, 2016

Andy Munoz is the artist behind the larger-than-life snow creations featured during Ullr Nights in Snowmass Village.
Credit Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio News

 Andy Munoz’s larger-than-life snow sculptures in the Elk Camp Meadows have become synonymous with the family-friend Ullr nights held each Friday in Snowmass Village.

Aspen Public Radio’s Alycin Bektesh checked in with Munoz as he spent weeks sculpting this year’s giant whale.


Andy Munoz is an all around artist. Along with his annual snow carving gig, he paints, illustrates, and is also a musician. Over the years, Munoz has made a pirate ship, a lizard and a monster truck. This year’s snow sculpture is  an homage to Moby Dick. He is like a kid in a candy shop playing on the mountain, and enjoys the task of building a snow fort that children will crawl, ride, slide and climb on all season long.


Munoz stands on top of the sculpture as he carves the outline for the harpooning boat and its pine-tree mast.
Credit Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio News

“You know you get to create something fun to go play in and the kids can just kind of fantasize they are out in the ocean or whatever.”

A pile of snow about 80 feet long and 30 feet high has been carved into a whale - along with sharp teeth and glowing eyes. Sculpted atop the whale is a harpooning boat - its mast in an actual entire tree trunk.

The tools of the trade include a chainsaw, a flat head shovel, and carpet scraper.  The whole process is very zen. Munoz will spend close to 200 hours creating the installment and will then check on it periodically throughout the winter - but come spring, it all just melts away

“You know it’s just part of it,” says Munoz. “I like to see the transition from start to finish and then… start it again next year hopefully.”

Doug Mckenzie is the former mountain manager at Snowmass - a  position he retired from three times. He now stays connected through a standing weekly ski date with his wife, and by overseeing the Ullr nights.

The sculpture rises 30 feet from the ski run below. A slide runs from the top to the bottom.
Credit Alycin Bektesh / Aspen Public Radio News

“They come out of the gondola and they just start immediately running and the parents are just trying to keep up and that's pretty much the situation for the next three hours.”

The weekly Ullr festivities include plenty of thrills: ice skating, bicycles with skis where the wheels should go, hot chocolate, and tubing. But it's the sculpture that captures the kid’s imagination - it’s a whole world of make believe and fantasy. You just have to let kids be kids, says McKenzie.

“You have this sculpture and you say ‘we don't want the kids here and there’ and you look and they are just running all over the place. And they are having a good time so…”

Munoz uses a chainsaw to carve out details on the whale's head.
Credit courtesy photo/Andy Munoz

Munoz says seeing the children interacting with his creation is fulfilling because those children grow up to have as much admiration and warm feelings toward the cold nights as he has developed playing with his chainsaw and shovel up at the the top of the Elk Camp gondola.