GUNNISON, COLO. - There’s something magical about fresh, falling snow. It leaves the landscape pure and white—and gives Wayne Castka one of his favorite materials to work with.
“Snow and me have a thing together,” said Castka, who along with his wife Vicky own the Gunnison gift shop “Into the Woods.”
“I would say the average snowman builder is probably in their 20s or below--once you get over the age of 30 I don’t think there’s much of a desire.”
The relationship between Castka and snowmen, started long before his relationship with his wife of 28 years. He estimated he’s been building snowmen for about 50 years.
“You have snow, you gotta do something with it,” Vicky Castka said. “So you build snowmen.”
But not just any snowman. Wayne builds huge snowmen—the smallest he usually aims for is 10 feet—but he’s built snowmen more than two stories tall. Last year was one of his records at 23 feet tall. Instead of a traditional hat on that snowman, he built another snowman to top it all off.
“The child in all of us can be remembered when you see something like I create,” Wayne Castka said. “I do love to see the happiness that these bring to people.”
Wayne builds snowmen, wherever there’s snow. He makes one in front of his shop, in the town park, at businesses, and even when he goes on vacation.
“If we go on vacation and there’s snow on the ground he’ll grab a chair or whatever he can find and make the biggest snowman he can build,” Vicky Castka said. “It’s just something that he does.”
He doesn’t use the traditional ball-rolling technique, though. He builds a tall, column of snow using cardboard forms. Sometimes it takes three or four days of shoveling to get enough snow piled up. Once the snow is compacted, he carves the figure. For his tallest creations, he uses ladders—sometimes three for just one snowman. For this year’s creation, he had a little ladder mishap.
“This was the first year where the ladder fell off the snowman and I had to jump off him,” Wayne Castka said. “I was nine feet up, and the wind blew the ladder down and I said, ‘I guess I just have to jump.’”
He said he’ll build these snowmen as long as he can shovel snow.
“It’s really a wonderful thing to go play in the snow,” Wayne Catska said.
Wayne said his current snowman will likely stand through the end of March. It’s located on Highway 50, just east of downtown Gunnison, near the Jorgensen ice rink.
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