with Ice Art Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska is the site of the World Ice Art Championships
For the event, Fairbanks provides the largest natural ice blocks in the world,
allowing the sculptors an opportunity to work on a pure and transient medium.
While there are other ice sculpting competitions in the northern hemisphere,
none are like the World Ice Art Championships.
Watch the Sculptors
If you are visiting in March, you will get a chance to see
these international sculptors carving ice at a special park just for displaying the
results of the championships. Because the water is so pure and the Alaskan
Interior's winter temperatures so cold, the ice forms quickly and densely,
which gives it a slight glacial blue tint. It is so clear that a person can read a
newspaper through a four-foot block of ice. Sculptors have pronounced
Fairbanks ice as the best in the world for sculpting.
Only a few years ago Ice Sculpting was added to the Winter
Olympics as a cultural competition. The World Ice Art Championships has served as
the U.S. Olympic Trials in both 1993 and 1997, sending Kevin Roscoe of Kirkland,
Washington and Steve Brice of Fairbanks, Alaska to Japan in January, 1998 to represent the
United States of America.
While most other competitions use ice blocks commercially manufactured to
about 2 x 4 x 2, the World Ice Art Championships use gigantic
blocks of naturally formed ice, harvested from local ponds. The blocks measure
3 x 8 x 5 and weigh over five tons. The final creations in the
Multi-Block Classic can weigh up to twenty tons and measure up to 25 feet in height.
Sculptors in most competitions are chefs creating decorations
of a few feet in height on banquet tables. They build by gluing ice pieces together
using a slushy mortar of ice chips and water and their creations seldom last more than a
few hours or days.
During the competition, most of the ice is sawed, chipped and brushed away as
if it were a block of wood or stone, but because it is done in ice, this process takes
only a few days. The mortar of slush is still used to join pieces together but fewer
joints are needed in comparison to the smaller ice sculpting competitions, which gives
pieces greater clarity.
The World Ice Art Championships consists of three separate
- Single Block Classic
Two person teams work on blocks of 3 x 5 x 8 for 60 hours in the
single block Classic.
- Multi-Block Classic
Four person teams work on twelve blocks of 3x3x4 blocks, which are
stacked by forklifts as the artists direct. Scaffolding is provided and artists are given
110 hours. Some artists work around the clock to complete their work, adding intricate
details with dentist drills or hand chisels.
- Fairbanks Open
The Fairbanks Open has amateur artists working side by side with world ice
Ice Park Display
An average temperature between ten below zero and twenty
degrees above zero Fahrenheit in early March it makes the ideal sculpting and viewing
environment. While some fine details on the sculptures may melt during the month,
the pieces hold up well for three to four weeks after the competition at a specially
designed "Ice Park" located near the banks of the Chena River,
makes use of the spruce trees as protective shading and background for the ice sculptures.
The park also usually contains ice sculptures designed for children to enjoy
alligators to slide down, twirly-tops to spin in and elephants to crawl on. The World Ice
Art Championships are sponsored by Ice Alaska, a non-profit membership organization based
in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Lighting and Viewing
When the competition is done, the carvings are lit up with
theatrical lights, prompting many
visitors to wait until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. to view the carvings a second time. In 1997 and
1998 viewing was cut short by unseasonably warm weather melting the carvings sooner than
So if you happen to visit when the carving is going on, do not wait
too long to view the statues. See our
calendar page for dates of competition or visit their
Ice Art Schedule.
[There is a very nominal charge for admission to help
support the park, with more expensive season passes available for those who want to watch
the progress of the carvers. ]
But if you miss being in Fairbanks in March, do not despair. Some
ice sculptures are retained in cold storage year 'round for the enjoyment of visitors and
locals alike. They can be seen downtown at the Fairbanks Ice
Museum in the former Lacey Street Theatre building. There is a small charge.
For a lot more pictures, go to Julie Coghill's page on the World Ice Art
Charles Newman has written an excellent history of ice carving in
Fairbanks, which is posted at Ice
Alaska's Web Site. You can also get a look at the carvings of past winners by
checking out this link. Email them at email@example.com.
There is a grade school in Fairbanks which did a project on the ice carvings
in 1995. They published their project on the internet - it is full of pictures of the
carvings and makes fascinating reading, so we give you the link to
their site here. Since then, the carving competition has grown considerably.