Originally a skill taught in culinary schools, the art of ice carving has moved out of the kitchen to the great outdoors. Throughout the northern hemisphere teams of ice and snow sculpture artists from around the world come together to compete in sculpting events with the resulting artworks put on display for the rest of us to enjoy. These frozen works of art are carved from solid blocks of ice and snow by a variety of tools including chisels, handsaws, and even chainsaws. Pay a visit to one of these 10 incredible Ice and Snow Festivals and experience the frozen magic for yourself. See, winter can be fun!
January 13-19, 2015
On the banks of the freezing Yenisei River, the International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture in Krasnoyarsk marks the start of the New Year. Teams travel to Siberia’s third-largest city from the US, Latvia, China, Japan and Kazakhstan to compete in both the snow and ice categories. This year’s theme “Magic ice of Siberia” will see the creations of fortresses, labyrinths and mythical scenes. Guests can try their hand at snow and ice carving with special expert-led workshops.
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
January 23 – February 1, 2015
The chainsaws and chisels fire up on January 23, kicking off 10 days of outdoor art, music, food and fun at Alberta, Canada’s Ice on Whyte Festival. Ice-carving artists from as far afield as Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Malaysia compete against local teams, making their way through more than 500 blocks of ice weighing 70,200kg.
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan
February 5 – 11, 2015
From its humble beginnings in 1990 where six snow statues made by secondary-school students attracted some 50,000 spectators, the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido Japan was a surprise hit. Today, the event welcomes more than 2 million guests each year who come to marvel at the nearly 200 sculptures made from enough snow to fill 6,500 5-tonne trucks! Top tips for the Sapporo Snow Festival: Keep a pack of tissues handy, buy a disposable hand warmer called a kairo, and stock up on official Snow Festival souvenirs.
January 5 – February 25, 2015
The granddaddy of all frozen events, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is the largest of its kind in the world. The Festival has its origins all the way back in 1963, when it started life as a traditional lantern-and-garden party before transforming into the extravagant event we see today. The sculptures are carved from giant blocks of ice taken directly from the frozen surface of the Songhua River. If you’ve had your fill of frozen wonders there are a bunch of winter activities to try such as skiing, snowboarding and skating.
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
Technical week: January 19-23. Competition: January 27-31. Display: through February 8
Fire and ice are the theme in Colorado this year with a hot new element on display. 16 teams made up of four artists from 10 different countries, including Mongolia, Germany, Ukraine, Mexico, China, Argentina, Lithuania, Spain, France, along with Alaska, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont and West Virginia. Each team is given a 3.7m high, 18,144kg block of snow to start with and has 65 hours to complete their masterpiece.
January 13-16, January 20-23, 2015
The magic of the ice and snow! Held over two weeks – the first dedicated to ice, the second to snow – the French ski resort of Valloire comes alive with music, lights and plenty of the frozen, pretty stuff. Now in its 24th year, enjoy the sights in this perfect location with a cup of hot wine or hot chocolate and a crepe or two.
International Ice Sculpture Festival, Jelgava, Latvia
February 1 – 8, 2015
In the central Latvian town of Jelgava, 30 sculptors from eight countries will create frozen sculptures in the theme of an Ice Fairy Tale. Now in its 17th year, thousands of people from across the country come to see the sculptures shine in colourful spotlights. For adults there’s the added fun of an ice bar and for the kids, an ice slide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylRWykn0l6M
BP World Ice Art Championships, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
February 23 – March 29, 2015
Founded in April 1990, the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbank, Alaska have grown from a week-long, eight-team competition to a month-long event featuring 70 teams of expert carvers. Run by a team of more than 300 volunteers, the Championships brings 45,000 visitors to the town. One major draw is the Frozen Kids Park. Like any other playground except this one is constructed entirely from ice with slides, rides and mazes!
Snowking, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
March 1-31, 2015
The capital and largest community in Northwest Territories, Canada, Yellowknife’s annual Snowking is a month long community celebration. Each March, a winter wonderland is created on Yellowknife Bay with the creation of the legendary Snowcastle. Built from the ice and snow of Great Slave Lake, the Snowcastle is the centrepiece of the Snowking calendar, celebrating arts and culture and showing-off all that Yellowknife has to offer.
Ice Music Festival, Geilo, Norway
February 5-8, 2015
Trust the residents of frozen northern Norway to take ice festivals to a whole new level! Each year under the full moon, the tiny town of Geilo hosts a unique artistic event – a music festival where all the instruments are made from ice just hours before each concert! Listen to folk, jazz, contemporary and “electronic”-style music, even the sounds of Africa, performed on icy chimes, glockenspiel, cello, horn and harp. Concerts are held in a variety of venues, but one event is more extreme than the others. Held at the stroke of midnight, it is accessible only by ski and takes place in an actual Viking gravesite!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Yge1cJVw4 Featured image by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks