World's Largest Ice Sculpting Competition
Photos & Story by Kyla
Ice! Alaska has plenty of it. And what a better way to play with a free medium, than sculpt it into something spectacular. For the past 22 years, Fairbanks has been home to the World Ice Art Championships. The two main events are single-block and multi-block, and there are two categories: realistic and abstract.
For the single-block event, each team of 1-2 people is given one block of ice measuring 5' x 8' x 3' and 60 hours to complete their sculpture. The multi-block event requires teams of 2-4 people and each team receives 10 blocks of ice and 132 hours to complete their sculpture. These are often over 25 feet tall and require the aid of heavy equipment and skilled operators to carefully lift and position the ice.
The ice is harvested from O' Grady pond, adjacent to the Ice Park, and over 1,500 tons of ice was used this year. Other events/attractions are the youth classic, amateur open exhibition, kids park, and two world record attempts (longest ice bar & longest ice drink luge). And yes, they did it!! The kids park is a playground entirely made of ice! It includes slides (some up to 300 feet long), mazes, kid-friendly sculptures, an ice rink, and twirlies (think a hollowed out tear-drop big enough for one person to sit in). There was one sculpture that was like an upside down igloo - a slippery bowl that is fun to slide around in, but difficult to get out.
The last two years I have had friends compete in the multi-block event, and recently some girlfriends and I traveled north to check out their creation. We stayed at a friend's cabin in Fairbanks and had fun visiting with the kids, using the door-less outhouse at -20º F, and seeing the bright star-filled sky (no aurora borealis, though). We went to the Ice Park on Saturday night so we could see the sculptures lit up with brightly colored lights. I had been once before a few years ago, but it still takes my breath away to see how tall these sculptures are. My friends created the little girl in the giant mushroom field and they placed higher than last year - way to go guys! The first place winner of the multi-block "realistic" is the bird in the cage, which was absolutely breathtaking.
The single-block sculptures are incredibly detailed and you can get up close and personal with them. I don't think my photography skills do any of them justice, so my apologies. It was so cold that I had to time my breathing when taking a picture - if I exhaled before I snapped the shot, my breath blocked everything. On their web site, each sculpture has a live web cam, as well as artist bios and pictures of their creative progress. You still have time to check out Ice Alaska in person - they don't close up until March 27th. Unfortunately due to a land dispute, it is possible that this is the last year Ice Alaska will take place.