When I hear the word ‘ice sculpture’ I think of the ice sculpture that’s always standing in an awkward place in weddings or banquets that’s the shape of a swan. You know what I’m talking about. I’m sure you can picture a movie scene or two. So when I heard about the ice sculptures in Fairbanks, I kind of pictured something similar. But I was wrong. I was in Fairbanks in winter many years ago but I missed the world-famous ice carving festival by just a few weeks. I’ve heard so much about it then and ever since! This March, I got to see the full exhibit of Ice Alaska and completely changed my image of ice sculptures. Although it was the coldest temperature I experienced this winter (10-20 degrees below freezing) it was totally worth it.
World Ice Art Championship, also known as Ice Alaska, is an annual ice sculpting competition in Fairbanks, Alaska. Each year sculptors from around the world travel to Fairbanks to compete in the most challenging and prestigious ice sculpting competition in the world. These ice blocks were hauled from frozen rivers near Fairbanks. How impressive.
Ice Alaska is so interesting it’s worth visiting twice, once during the day and once at night. The organizers know this of course, so they grant you same-day access in the evening. I’ve been to both during the day and night, but I have to say, it’s a lot more enjoyable at night with all the ice sculptures light up in different colors. You’d think the neon color lights might look tacky, but not at all. It’s whimsical and what exactly we need after the hard year we had.
It’s like visiting a small village made with ice blocks. Right after the ticket booth, there are many functioning garden games made with ice, such as a ping pong table, shuffleboard, mini-golf, and cornhole. There are also many slides that you can enjoy depending on your comfort level. I went on the easiest one but it was still quite fun! Walk past a hallway made with ice and into the woods. It’s actually quite magical. The big block ice arts are through the forest. It’s astonishing to see the precise expression they can create using nothing but ice.
Here are a few photos from Ice Alaska 2021 (at night of course). One side note, I heard the exhibit this year is a bit different than other years because international artists couldn’t travel due to COVID-19. But to me, it was still an amazing experience.