Fantastic Frigid and Fragile Sculptures of Snow

Far from child’s play that goes beyond the conventional carrot-nosed snowman, artists have long crafted chilly creations of snow sculptures. From small blocks of snow to epic proportions, transforming enormous snow blocks into larger than life masterpieces of an ethereal nature, some top the scales at 20 to 30 tons, measuring hundreds of feet in length.

Typically using nothing more than simple hand tools such as shovels, hatchets, and saws, snow sculptures and carvings are often created in full view of spectators, thus giving it kinship to performance art.

Winter festivals have prominently held snow sculpting competitions throughout the world in cold climes, most notably in Sapporo, Japan, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China, the Quebec City Winter Carnival in Canada, and various other locations including Perm, Russia, and the U.S. The Saint Paul Winter Carnival in Minnesota is allegedly the oldest annual winter carnival in the world, with the first dating back to 1886.

Harbin 2009 Ice & Snow Festival. This 394-foot (120-meter) long Snow Sculpture is still in the carving process.

Harbin 2009 Ice & Snow Festival.
Harbin 2009 Ice & Snow Festival.

In a sneak peak at the 2009 Harbin festival, about 200 snow sculptures of all sizes are currently being displayed, or are still in carving progress. It’s been held since 1963, and one of the world’s 4 largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival.

The Zhao Lin Park is its designated location, along with several expositions held including the artistic Snow Sculptures at the Park on Sun Island, and the Ice Carvings at the Zhao Lin Park. The Harbin Ice & Snow World is gigantic and illuminated at night, and the Disney Ice Festival is located in the City Centre.

It lasts from January to late February every year with winter temperatures frequently dropping from -4°F to -31°F. (-20° to -35° C).

Harbin 2009 Ice & Snow Festival
Harbin 2009 Ice & Snow Festival
Harbin 2009 Ice & Snow Festival. Snow Train with a Steam Engine on each side.The wagons are partly carved out for visitors to go inside.

Entitled ‘Romantic Feelings,’ the 2008 Harbin snow sculpture was designed to be the world’s largest, measuring about 115 feet (35 meters) tall and 532 feet (162 meters) long. It was made by joining together 15-foot square blocks of natural ice and snow taken from the nearby Songhua River, which have been compressed to withstand blows from hatchets, saws and shovels.

‘Romantic Feelings,’ largest snow sculpture at Harbin in 2008.

The 2007 festival featured the Canadian theme, in memoriam of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune. It has a Guinness World Record of the largest snow sculpture measuring 28 feet (8.5 meters) high and 820 feet (250 meters) long, using over 13,000 cubic meters of snow. The composition consisted of 2 parts — “Niagara Falls” and “Crossing the Bering Strait” (the latter depicting the migration of the First Nations).

World’s largest snow sculpture 2007
World’s largest snow sculpture 2007
Snow sculpture at Harbin
Lady Liberty snow sculpture at Harbin.

Ice and Snow World in Harbin.

The famous Sapporo Snow Festival is one of Japan’s largest winter events held annually over 7 days in February. During the 58th Festival in 2007, about 2 million people visited Sapporo to see the hundreds of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures at Odori Park and Susukino sites, in central Sapporo, and the Satoland site.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2008
Sapporo Snow Festival 2008.

The Snow Festival began in 1950, when local high school students built 6 snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Self-Defense Force joined in and built the very first massive snow sculpture, for which the Snow Festival has become famous for. The Festival has grown from these humble beginnings to become one of the largest and most well known of Hokkaido’s winter events.

Entwined mermaids.

Old Man Winter.

How to Create Massive Snow Sculptures
So just how do these artists create such mammoth sized snow sculptures? According to Snowfes, a wooden frame is built and filled with tightly packed snow — based on a blueprint and small model of the sculpture — which also serves as scaffolding.

Once the packed snow is hardened, the frame panels are removed and the carving carefully begins. Hatchets and shovels are used to outline the sculpture, and then details are added.

Since warmer daytime temperatures make the sculptures fragile, many sculptors work at night.

When the sculpture is completed, the scaffoldings are removed, along with accumulated snowfall and icicles that have formed on the carving.

Life cycle
Polar bear & the Fortress of Solitude
Mini fort made of ice was part of a snow sculpture exhibition in the Hokkaido Mountains.

Eagles fighting over fish
Eagles fighting over fish

Mayan god

Picking mushrooms

Small world.
Daddy’s boy.

Snow carvings from competitions in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Snow carvings from competitions in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Snow carvings from competitions in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Snow carvings from competitions in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Snow carvings from competitions in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.

Full-sized Taj Mahal
Slinky dog.



Speed skater

Chief and his horse.

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