‘Isak Heartstone,’ Breckenridge’s Trail Troll, Is Reborn In A New Location

June 25, 2019
Photo: Isak Heartstone Trail Troll New Location
The troll sculpture known as Isak Heartstone is now more upright, bracing itself against a tree, in its new location.

Isak Heartstone is back, and he has a new look.

Breckenridge dismantled its famous — or infamous, depending on which side of the debate you were on — 15-foot troll sculpture last fall after the public artwork’s popularity brought too much noise and traffic to the town's Wellington Trail. The decision to remove the troll came after the town tried a number of mitigation efforts, including adding trash cans, signage and fencing to keep people on the trail and out of the surrounding neighborhood. 

The artful troll made of reclaimed wood has been reinstalled near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena and Illinois Gulch trailhead. It reopened to the public Tuesday.

The self-proclaimed “Troll Committee” consisted of community members, town staff, town council members and Breckenridge Creative Arts, the nonprofit that commissioned the artwork. They worked together to determine the best new home for Isak Heartstone.

“Ultimately, we landed on this location because we felt like it checked all of the boxes,” said Nicole Dial-Kay, director of exhibitions and special projects for Breckenridge Creative Arts. 

Those boxes included accessibility via several modes of transportation, “some distance between our locals and the trail, and it still contains that sort of backcountry, wild, adventurous search for the troll that the artist envisioned.”

Breckenridge Creative Arts commissioned Danish artist Thomas Dambo to create the $40,000 work for last summer’s Breckenridge International Festival of Arts (BIFA). Dambo is known for creating these troll sculptures all over the world. 

Last fall, Dambo told CPR News he’s had “all kinds of reactions” to these trolls, but typically the response has been positive. He said the trolls he builds are “all part of a fairytale I’m writing one sculpture at a time.” Fans of the troll put up a huge stink on social media when the town announced Isak would be taken down.

Dambo returned to Breckenridge in May for 10 days to rebuild Isak. The head, hands and feet are all from the original installation, as well as the heartstone, which is a heart-shaped stone brought to Dambo by kids in the nearby neighborhood. It’s how the troll got its name.

Dial-Kay said the same children got to put the heart into “the reimagined Isak this time.” The new Isak is more upright, bracing itself against a tree and peering down on visitors.

The town built a trail, about a 1/10 of a mile long, just for Isak called Trollstigen Trail — Norwegian for “road of the trolls,” Dial-Kay said.

Isak’s reopening is part of this year’s BIFA, which runs Aug. 9 - 18, 2019.

Dial-Kay understands why so many people continue to talk about the controversy of Isak Heartstone the trail troll, but wanted to remind visitors that the artist’s “entire goal is that the troll is not just an artwork of the now. It’s woven into the history... and the future of our community. Whenever the troll eventually deteriorates, there will still be the legend of the troll.”