Each year in Fairbanks, Alaska, a 27 acre frozen wonderland is created from almost 4 million pounds of ice.
Ice Alaska is home to the World Ice Carving Championships, but the competition isn’t the only thing to see at the ice park. There’s a kids area filled with frozen playgrounds and many, many slides. There’s an ice hockey rink. An ice maze. Ice castles. Ice ships that you can go inside. Giant ice dinosaurs to climb on.
There’s a tractor-driven train that circles the park, departing from – of course – an ice ‘train station.’ You can take ice carving classes, if you get the urge to try making your own art, or visit with sled dogs outside the gate.
For the sculpting competition, 70 teams and over 100 carvers work with ice harvested from the park’s pond. They work nearly around the clock in temperatures that can dip to -40F – or, even worse, stay above freezing during the day, making the ice impossible to work with.
The multi-block competition has teams of 2-4 carvers, while the single-block section is for individuals or pairs. This year’s placing teams represented the US, Japan, Russia, France, Mexico, Thailand, and Mongolia.
The park opens in late February and stays until the end of March – weather permitting. The ice park only exists for about 6 weeks. By the end, anything exposed to the sun has started to melt. By late Spring there won’t be any traces left of the sculptures, and you wouldn’t think this park was anything special at all.
But that’s all right, because summer in Alaska just means it’s time to start preparing for winter. And in February they’ll start to harvest the ice blocks and build the whole thing over again.
(For more pictures, see my gallery: Ice Alaska in Black and White.)
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