Top 10 ice and snow festivals around the world

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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!

International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia

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 U.S., 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.

International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru
International Festival-Competition of Snow and Ice Sculpture, Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Photo by admkrsk.ru

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 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 70,200 kilograms.

Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca
Ice on Whyte Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by iceonwhyte.ca

Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan

February 5 – 11, 2015

From its humble beginnings in 1990 where six snow statues made by local high school students attracted some 50,000 spectators, the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan was a surprise hit.

Today, the event welcomes more than two million guests each year who come to marvel at the nearly 200 sculptures made from enough snow to fill 6,500 five-ton 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.

Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com
Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido, Japan. Photo by snowfes.com

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China

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’s origins date all the way back to 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.

International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com
International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin, China. Photo by icefestivalharbin.com

Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado, United States

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 at the Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships.

There are 16 teams made up of four artists from 10 different countries including Mongolia, Germany, Ukraine, Mexico, China, Argentina, Lithuania, Spain, France and the United States.

Each team is given a 3.7 metre high, 18,144 kilogram block of snow to start with and has 65 hours to complete their masterpiece.

Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield/ gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield/ gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield/ gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow/gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow/gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow/gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow/gobreck.com
Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Nathan Bilow gobreck.com

Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France

January 13-16, January 20-23, 2015

The magic of 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 during the Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sure Neige, which is 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.

Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by P Delannoy/Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by P Delannoy / Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by B Grange/Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by B Grange / Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by B Grange/Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by B Grange / Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by P Delannoy/Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by P Delannoy / Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by B Grange/Valloire Galibier
Concours International de Sculpture sur Glace et sur Neige, Valloire, France. Photo by B Grange / Valloire Galibier

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 at the International Ice Sculpture Festival.

For adults there’s the added fun of an ice bar and, for the kids, an ice slide.

BP World Ice Art Championships, Fairbank, Alaska, United States

February 23 – March 29, 2015

Founded in April 1990, the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbank, Alaska, has 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, which is like any other playground except it is constructed entirely from ice with slides, rides and mazes!

"Let It Be", sculpted by Junichi Nakamura, Shinichi Sawamura, Yoshimori Mabuchi, and Koji Murakami of Japan. Photo by Karen Clautice/Ice Alaska
“Let It Be”, sculpted by Junichi Nakamura, Shinichi Sawamura, Yoshimori Mabuchi, and Koji Murakami of Japan. Photo by Karen Clautice/Ice Alaska
The ice slides at the World Ice Art Championships. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
The ice slides at the World Ice Art Championships. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks
"Ice Art Joust" sculpted by Craig Cheledinas, Kevin Roscoe and Steve Brice. Photo by Photo by Craig Cheledinas/Ice Alaska
“Ice Art Joust” sculpted by Craig Cheledinas, Kevin Roscoe and Steve Brice. Photo by Craig Cheledinas/Ice Alaska
"The White Rabbit", sculpted by Burr Buddy Rasmussen, Clay Rasmussen, and Roland De La Garza. Photo b Rhonda Konicki/Ice Alaska
“The White Rabbit”, sculpted by Burr Buddy Rasmussen, Clay Rasmussen, and Roland De La Garza. Photo by Rhonda Konicki/Ice Alaska

Snowking, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

March 1-31, 2015

The capital and largest community in the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, hosts the annual Snowking event, which 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.

Snowking Snowcastle, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking Snowcastle, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking Snowcastle, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking Snowcastle, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Fireweed Children's Choir, Snowking, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Fireweed Children’s Choir, Snowking, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking kids' fun, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking kids’ fun, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking wedding, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca
Snowking wedding, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photo by snowking.ca

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 – the Ice Music Festival where all the instruments are made from ice just hours before each concert!

Listen to folk, jazz, contemporary, “electronic”-style music and 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!

Ice Music Festival, Geilo, Norway. Photo by Emile Holba / Ice Music Festival
Ice Music Festival, Geilo, Norway. Photo by Emile Holba / Ice Music Festival
Ice Music Festival, Geilo, Norway. Photo by Emile Holba / Ice Music Festival
Ice Music Festival, Geilo, Norway. Photo by Emile Holba / Ice Music Festival

Featured image by Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

Top 10 ice and snow festivals around the world was last modified: April 21st, 2016 by Kara Segedin
Author: Kara Segedin (256 posts)

Writer, traveller, Tweeter, blogger and part-time adventurer. A kiwi living in London off to explore the world! I can never travel enough!