An icy reception at Highlands today |

An icy reception at Highlands today

An icy beginning to the holiday season will kick off today at Aspen Highlands Village.

Before the day is over, an 11-foot sculpture of a “Nutcracker” character made of ice will tower over the village’s plaza. Scott Rella, an internationally known ice sculptor and founder of the performance ice sculpting group Fear No Ice, is traveling from his home in Vail today to sculpt the 3,000-pound statue.

Blocks of ice will be stacked this morning with a forklift, and at 2 p.m. the ice will fly as Rella begins to work on his masterpiece.

Merchants at Highlands Village are hoping the statue will last at least until Wintersköl is over, and if it makes it past Highlands’ Blitzenbanger, all the better, said Betsy Furth from Darnauer Group LLC. The firm was hired to represent Highlands merchants.

Rella and Fear No Ice have been creating sculptures around the world since 1989, including at Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and Nagano, Japan. The group, based in Deer Park, N.Y., is known for creating detailed sculptures within 20 or 30 minutes.

Darnauer Group has also planned a number of holiday activities to draw visitors from Aspen and surrounding areas up Maroon Creek Road. Tonight the village’s Aspen Artist’s Cooperative holds its first holiday art opening from 5 to 9 in the space next to Iguana’s.

The cooperative currently represents 50 locals artists and includes paintings, sculpture, jewelry and pottery.

On Sunday, one of Santa Claus’ reindeer will make an appearance from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The reindeer is tame, and kids can get a close-up view, Furth said. Santa himself will be at the village plaza on Sunday and Monday from 3 to 4 p.m.

Christmas carolers will stroll the plaza on Sunday and Monday, and apres-ski will include free cookies, hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting in the plaza’s fire pit. On Tuesday, Dec. 30, the Aspen Artist’s Cooperative will host its first apres art opening from 3 to 6 p.m.

“We really want to differentiate Highlands from other places like downtown Aspen and Snowmass,” said Zach Cyrus from the Darnauer Group. “Highlands has a different atmosphere and feel, and we’re trying to preserve its renegade spirit while getting people to visit.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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