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Breaking the Ice - Snow & Ice Art to take your breath away

Breaking the Ice: Amazing Snow & Ice Art

Snow& Ice Art is a combination of engineering skills and creativity to form exquisite sculptures that only last as long as the cold weather. We showcase 7 eye-catching examples, and tell you about winter festivals where you can see this amazing art in person.

Winter? Time to hibernate? Not for snow & ice sculptors - this is the only time of year for their art.

Many parts of the world turn white with snow and ice in winter. When it’s that cold a great way to engage people is this type of art.

For over 30 years, winter festivals celebrating snow and ice art have become increasingly popular, with spectacular competitions drawing audiences in great numbers. 

When we did a look around at the festivals we realised that it offers a way to bond communities both as spectators and competitors since most of this is a team sport. 

It also serves as a fabulous way for people to appreciate other cultures when they see things from another country modelled in snow and ice.​ Of course for the countries involved, it helps promote tourism and is a way of generating income in places which otherwise would be dead in the winter.

Ice & snow art at festivals involve tens of thousands of kilos of snow or ice. So while there are power tools, there’s a lot still done by hand.One of the other things that intrigued us and is that snow and ice art requires both engineering skills and an artistic imagination. So we are guessing this is another reason why it’s a team sport!

So here are 7 snow and ice art that we’ve picked out for you to take a look at.

We end with a roundup of some of festivals that are happening or starting soon. So in case you want to, you can visit the festivals and see the spectacular sculptures in person.

1. World's Tallest Ice Sculpture

The first one we picked is the world’s tallest ice sculpture according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This giant dinosaur-shaped sculpture in Yichun, China was constructed in January 2010, and took 850 cubic metres of ice and 120 people twenty days to create. It was 53-foot tall and created by the Yichun City government. There aren’t many pictures of this available, but this one gives you a sense of the scale of the work if you look at the person in the background.

There was an attempt in Minnesota, USA in February 2015 to break this record, but the 60-foot structure collapsed before work began on it because of unseasonal warmth! How frustrating for the artist to watch months of planning and dreaming just melt away.

Snow and Ice Art - Worlds tallest ice sculpture

World's Tallest Ice Sculpture - Yichun, Jan 2010 (Found on

2. Homage to Star Wars

With Star Wars making the headlines around the world, how about a snow sculpture that reminds you of the movie?

The Japanese army that regularly participates in the Sapporo Snow Festival believe that building large snow sculptures is a great training exercise. So in Sapporo 2015, they built a Disney sponsored Star Wars themed sculpture. This was called the Snow Star Wars. Look at the amazing amount of detail as well as these pictures of the actual build progressing  over time .

Snow and Ice Art - Star Wars Construction Jan 7

Star Wars Construction Jan 7 ©Copyright Lucasfilm Ltd (found on

Snow and Ice Art - Star Wars Construction Jan 31

Star Wars Construction Jan 31 © Lucasfilm Ltd (found on

Snow and Ice Art - Star Wars Construction Jan 20

Star Wars Construction Jan 20 © Lucasfilm Ltd (found on

3. Namdaemun in Japan

During the Joseon dynasty in South Korea, Sungnyemun aka Namdaemun was built to be one of the eight gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul. A stunning snow replica was created at Sapporo 2009. We think you should look at a picture of the real Sungnyemun Gate built in 1396 in Korea as well to appreciate the snow sculpture itself.  This is an example of visitors being able to learn about the history and culture of another country when visiting the winter festivals.

4. Realistic Lizard

Alaska hosts Ice Alaska – the annual world Ice Art championship. It has a “Realistic” section, perhaps the ice equivalent of a portrait or still life? Entrants need to create their work from a single ice block contest.

Lizard’s Treat was the winner in 2015, and made from a 2000kg piece block of ice 3’ x 5’ x 8’. Are you able to make out what the treat is?

Lizard's Treat - Ice Alaska 2014


5. Love in Motion

Snow and Ice Art - Love in Motion


Ice Alaska also has an “Abstract” section, and this was the winner in 2014. This was also a single block piece, and we loved the translucent and crystal effects in the same piece.

6. Shepherd and his Flute 

This snow sculpture, from the Harbin festival, is deceptively large – take a look at the trees in the background to get a sense of scale. We loved the way in which you almost expect to hear music playing the moment you see it. 

Harbin snow sculpture flute

7. The Space Vehicle

And finally, with the recent scientific debates about whether there could be enough ice locked away on Mars or even the Moon to generate oxygen for future visitors to breathe, here’s another idea for what to do with any ice they find!

Ice Sculpture Space Vehicle

"Chill Out" at these 2016 Winter Art Festivals

If these have caused your jaw to drop, like ours did, you might be inspired to go and see some of these in person.

If you do, you’d better get a move on, as the Snow and Ice Art Festival Season has already been going for a few weeks.

And as the American team found out last year, the end date for each festival is subject to the weather . . .

Here’s a list of the five that you can just about make if you get your skates on (sorry!)

1. China - Harbin Snow & Ice Festival
(Dec 15 –1 Feb 2016)

1. Harbin Snow & Ice Festival is the largest such festival in the world that also features some of the largest sculptures you’ll see anywhere. Harbin  is known as the “Ice city” and has very cold temperatures, so make sure you are prepared for this. Harbin receives about a million visitors each year. This is a must visit at least once in your life time. There is a magical atmosphere with the coloured lights on sculptures. The enormous size of the festival and scale of the sculptures has to be experienced to be appreciated

Harbin is geared towards both domestic and international visitors. It has both Chinese and global culture on display. The fine detailed work on sculptures is just so beautiful. A record is being created for the world’s largest snow sculpture this year (2016) in the shape of a castle with amazing detail. More than 160 artists used more than 35,000 cubic metres of snow to build this castle, which covers an area of 2,800 square metres. 

2. USA - International Snow Sculpture Championships, Breckenridge
(Jan 27-31 2016​)

​This festival in Colorado has artists from around the world participating to create snow sculptures and is one of the big four winter festivals. Colorado knows how to show its visitors a good time. The competition with global teams for the snow & ice sculptures entertains families

3. ​Canada - International Snow Sculpture Event, Québec City
(Feb 3-8 2016)

The festival at Quebec goes back as far as 1894 is part of the Quebec Winter Carnival and has been continually held since 1955 and is in the list as one of the four of the largest winter festivals. The snow sculpture competition is something that visitors greatly look forward to observing. This is the festival for the greatest variety of its sculptures and considered one of the best

4. Japan - Sapporo Snow Festival
(Feb 5-18 2016​)

This the last one of the big four winter festivals. It’s about sixty years old now and about 2 million visitors with domestic and international visitors

5. USA - Ice Alaska
(Feb 29 - Mar 27, 2016 (weather permitting end date)

World Ice Art championships happen here and a place to go to admire the spectacular sculptures in ice. For the single block competition, each team of up to two people is given one block of ice, approximately 3'×5'×8' (90 cm × 150 cm × 200 cm) and a period of 60 hours (2 ½ days) to create their works of art. This block weighs about 7,800 pounds (3,500kgs).

In the Multi-Block Classic, teams of up to four persons each receive ten blocks of approximately 6'×4'×3' (180 cm × 100 cm × 90 cm) each weighing about 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg). to create their crystal masterpieces.

Inspired by what you've seen?

So, are you motivated to go see snow & ice art or try them yourself? If so, you must take a look at Dawson List’s inspirational website