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February 2019

5 “Cool” Ice Festivals From Around the World

International ice carving competitions a cut above the rest

For many people in the world, this winter is a colder one than normal. And while there’s plenty to gripe about, there are still some benefits to the chill. Around the globe, countries participate in ice carving competitions in which contestants artistically produce magnificent frozen sculptures. Some of these events are larger than others, such as the first festival we’ll explore. From individual sculptures to what seem like cities of snow, these events definitely put the “cool” back into the cold.

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Harbin, China
Dec 25, 2018 - Feb 28, 2019


Considered the largest ice sculpture festival in the world, the Harbin Ice Festival welcomes visitors to a world of ice and snow. Participants here create veritable towns of white. Other experiences include an international art expo, an ice lantern art fair, winter swimming, ice hotels, dog sledding, and Siberian tiger presentations.

Perhaps what's most magnificent is the sheer size of the ice sculptures. Some resemble full-size buildings, most notably the ice castle from this year's event (click the link above for photos). At night, such complexes are set aglow with lights of multiple colors, creating a truly unique and luminous spectacle.

Sapporo Snow Festival
Hokkaido, Japan
Feb 4 - 11, 2019


While the Sapporo Snow Festival originally began as a community project in 1950, it was the commencement of the International Snow Sculpture contest in 1974 that really put the event on the world map. Today, over 100 sculptures crafted from pristine white snow sprawl across three sites throughout the city – the principle sites being Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome – depicting epic heroes from film and gaming lore.

The event also sees the participation of Japan's Self-Defense Force, a notable contributor since 1955. During years when snow is minimal, said force is also tasked with bringing more snow from outside of the city.

Aside from sculptures, the event also hosts other spectacles like a beauty pageant and sporting events.

International Ice Sculpture Festival
Jelgava, Latvia
Feb 8 - 10, 201


This winter in Jelgava, Latvia, 30 sculptures from seven countries around the world came together to manipulate 70 tons of ice into ice art. Chainsaws buzzed as over 80,000 people in attendance partook in the festival's many events, from ice skating shows to live music and fireworks.

One particularly impressive piece showcased King Kong scaling the Empire State Building. It was just one of over 65 pieces on display during the 2019 event.

The Magic Ice of Siberia Festival & Contest
Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Feb 23 - Mar 12, 2019


Also known as the International Festival and Contest of Snow and Ice Sculptures, this traditional event held in Krasnoyarsk brings together sculptors from around the world, including Russia, China, Japan, Belarus, Latvia, and more.

Each year offers a new theme. The subject for 2019 is the Embodiment of Victories, and so contestants highlight moments of victory throughout the city’s rich history. As the third largest city in Siberia, visitors can be sure there’s plenty of story to go with the cold.

Ice Alaska World Ice Championships
Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
Feb 14 - Mar 31, 2019


Ice Alaska, a volunteer-run organization, was founded in 1990 to preserve the culture of ice sculpting, a tradition in Alaska. Each year, they host their World Ice Championships, bringing in over 100 artists representing nine countries, in which over 100 sculptures and exhibition pieces are created. In 2019, the event takes place at the Tanana Valley State Fairgrounds.

Ice sculptures at this year's event take on many themes, from great vessels to mythological scenes. The Kids Park, replete with more ice attractions, provides something especially fun for the children.

These are only five notable ice and snow festivals from around the world. There are many others, most likely some near you. And seeing as it’s so cold around the world, you may have more than enough time to check one out this year.

What is your favorite winter festival? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” telc English for more articles on language learning tips!

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