50 amazing snow and ice sculptures from around the world
Ice sculptures have a rich history, and evidence suggests people may have been carving ice as early as 600 B.C. However, as tools and technology advanced, ice sculptures did as well. In the 1600s, fishermen in the China province of Heilongjiang would freeze water inside buckets, and then remove the buckets and put a candle inside to create ice lanterns—a tradition still celebrated today at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.
Later, in 1739, Russian empress Anna Ivanovna had an “ice palace” built out of ice from the Neva River to host special events. Artist Valery Ivanovich Jacobi memorialized this ice palace in an oil painting in 1878.
Today, artists around the world have created memorable sculptures out of ice and snow, but even still, there isn’t one clear, prescriptive way to set about sculpting the frozen elements. However, snow is often compressed and packed down, and then ice sculptors use tools like ice chippers, chisels, and sheetrock saws to cut through large swaths of snow, and machetes for finer details. Some artists even use sandpaper.
Ice and snow sculptures don’t last forever, of course. The time you can expect an ice or snow sculpture to stay standing depends on the size, temperature, sunlight, and air circulation. It’s estimated that a single-block ice sculpture will last about 12 hours at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. A picture, of course, will last longer—so Stacker compiled a collection of 50 amazing snow and ice sculptures from different winter festivals around the world. Keep reading to discover just some of the imaginative creations people have come up with.
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Ice maze at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in northeast China is the world’s biggest winter festival, attracting up to 20 million visitors every year. The festival has three venues: the Sun Island Scenic Area, the Ice and Snow World—where the ice maze is located—and Zhaolin Park, where there are more than 1,000 ice sculptures on display.
'Powerful' lion sculpture in Bernau, Germany
The lion snow sculpture “Powerful” by artists Peter Hermann and Grant Rundbladet was part of the 2018 Black Forest Snow Sculpture Festival in Bernau, Germany. During the 2019 event, eight artist teams worked to transform snow cubes measuring 72 cubic meters using saws, shovels, and scrapers. The festival was open for four days in February and included a ski show and fireworks.
World Snow Festival in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Unicorn sculpture in Edinburgh, Scotland
Darren Jackson’s unicorn ice sculpture was a part of a 2017 exhibition in Edinburgh, “The Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland.” Jackson was one of five ice artists who carved ice sculptures depicting Scottish history and culture using chainsaws, chisels, and hammers. Inside the exhibition hall, the temperature was -10 degrees Celsius or 14 degrees Fahrenheit so the ice sculptures could maintain their solid forms.
An ice steam train in Manchester, England
Mark Hackney’s ice steam train sculpture was part of 2018’s “Ice Village” in Manchester, England. When the attraction opened in Cathedral Gardens, it was the first of its kind in Britain, where 250 tons of ice were used to create a winter wonderland that also was inspired by Manchester’s industrial heritage. In addition to the intricate ice sculptures, “Ice Village” also featured an ice bar and ice rink, and Santa’s grotto.
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Ice thrones at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland
In 2015, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in London featured a magical ice kingdom, complete with 300 pieces of ice art from thrones to frozen animals, all of which were created with tools that included power drills and steel samurai swords. A total of 30 ice sculptors worked to create the project, two of whom worked on a giant snow ogre that ended up weighing double the amount of the average elephant.
Cricket ice sculpture at the Machines de l'Ile in France
The Machines de l'Ile in Nantes, France, is a giant art project that embraces the industrial history of Nantes in western France with mechanics and creativity. The theme park’s main attraction is the Great Elephant, a mechanical elephant that can carry 49 passengers who can see up close and personal how the gears in the giant sculpture work to propel it forward. In 2012, sculptors carved a block of ice into a cricket in front of spectators in the park.
'Flying in a Dream' in Valloire, France
Russian sculptor Andrey Molokov’s “Flying in a Dream” ice sculpture was one of the frozen works of art on display at the 28th International Valloire-Galibier Ice Sculpture Contest in Valloire, France, in January 2019. The next contest is slated Jan. 11-14, 2022.
Stormtrooper ice sculpture in Liège, Belgium
In 2015, the town of Liège in Belgium held a Star Wars-themed ice sculpture festival that displayed 61 ice sculptures created by 30 different artists from around the globe. The sculptors used 500 tons of ice to create the works of art, which varied from two meters to six meters high. In addition to the frozen stormtrooper, visitors also could see icy tributes to Darth Vader, Yoda, and Princess Leia.
Ice artist at the Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival
The annual Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival attracts artists from around the world who are tasked with shaping more than 600,000 pounds of ice and snow into frozen sculptures up to 20 feet tall that reflect the year’s theme. The next festival is slated for Dec. 14, 2021, through March 6, 2022.
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