Visitors marvel at the works of the artists which are so fragile and short-lived but, at the same time and maybe because of these very same factors, so astonishing.
I have just learned that here in Canada there are many ice festivals held every winter and just last Saturday morning, I met with a friend who kindly asked me to take her to Lake St. Mary to attend an ice sculpture festival. First, I was doubtful and I thought it would be boring to look at blocks of ice all day long in the middle of nowhere…but I was wrong! It was amazing!
A dozen artists came together to attend this open-air festival and to compete and make the most beautiful sculptures from 15 blocks of ice in just under three days.
I had never walked around Lake St. Mary before so my friend also showed me some gorgeous frozen waterfalls which were really impressive and she even told me that there are sometimes some ice-climbers climbing them but not that day perhaps because it was avalanche awareness day and they thought it was better to avoid that extreme sport on the occasion of the nearby festival too.
We arrived at the place of the event in the late morning and the place was already full of volunteers in full preparation. We then put on our snowshoes to fulfil our special mission: taking official photographs of the day from the hills above!
The ice sculptures festival was not just about ice: they had quite a few events going on at the same time, such as the demonstration of the use of rescue dogs, workshops on how to make a fire in case of an emergency, know-hows for the construction of shelters but also other activities such as the recognition of animal footprints, the study of snow layers and igloo building skills.
Using ice as a material for making beautiful sculptures is not a new trend of recent times here but it has origins in the Inuit culture of the natives.
It seems that the art of sculpting the ice goes back to ancient Russia where, because of the cold, the ice was a very easy material to find and for this reason it was used also in the artistic field. The passion for ice sculptures then spread all over the world and every year many festivals are organized to celebrate this alternative art form, from China to the United Kingdom.
Ice sculptures require a lot of dexterity and precision, and even though ice is much easier and malleable to work with than stone, they thought us that you need to pay close attention to modelling. Some artists prefer to create particular optical effects, covering part of their works with spray paint that creates nuances of great effect, but most artists use only ice in its natural form.
In Canada, every year, these events attract tourists from all over the world, fascinated by this form of alternative art made of snow. Dozens of groups from all over the world take part in every festival. Each artist, equipped with water, barbed wire, saws and pallets, begins to shape his/her own ice block, creating original and unique statues that, at times, may remain exposed until spring (weather and temperatures permitting), when the heat begins to melt them. The theme of the festival I attended is always open, so each group can give free rein to their creativity in the way they prefer.
The participants had three days to realize their works, which were then evaluated by locals and tourists who attended the event.