When you go to a snow show, do you ever wonder how the ice sculptures are made? They look like magic, but the fact is that a lot of work goes into the planning, creation and display of the works of art at an ice show. It can take days or even weeks to turn an area into the winter wonderland that we love to visit. In fact, that only thing as amazing as wandering through a winter show is knowing how it’s made!
Step One: Location
Setting up a snow show takes planning. Ice sculptures are heavy and extremely fragile, not to mention nearly impossible to repair if they are damaged. Therefore, most ice sculptures are created where they will be displayed. This is especially true of very large ice sculptures, or ice-built structures like archways, ice slides or snow palaces. From the locations of sculptures to the materials needed to the pathways that guests will walk as they view the show, nothing is left to the last minute. An ice sculpture show is planned out on paper before it becomes a reality.
Step Two: Lighting
On top of that, the site of an ice show needs to be prepared by a team of electricians, both before and during the installation of the sculptures. An indoor snow show needs careful temperature control to make certain that the main attractions don’t become puddles of water, even when the building becomes crowded. Lighting is also a huge part of any ice show, indoor or outdoor. A winter show at night is an amazing sight, with the sculptures glowing in the lights. Some of them are designed to be lit from within for a magical effect. Some sculptures, including ice castles and other buildings, need an electrician to wire them as they are being built!
Step Three: Choosing the Ice
Once the location is planned and prepped, the sculptures are ready to be made. This process starts, of course, with ice. But the works of art at a snow show aren’t made of just any old ice! Ice for sculpting is made from pure, filtered water, so that it will freeze cleanly. There are several ways to freeze sculpting ice depending on what the sculptor wants the end result to look like. Clear sculptures are made from ice that was frozen using a process that doesn’t allow air to become trapped in the ice. Other techniques allow for solid white ice, or ice with glittering bubbles trapped inside. Some sculptors even use dye for colored ice. The possibilities are endless.
Step Four: The Sculpting
Most of the work, of course, of course, goes into the sculpting process. Ice buildings are made with ice bricks that are carved from larger blocks using chain saws, but the more delicate sculptures are made with an amazing variety of hand-held tools of different sizes and shapes. Many ice sculptors use custom-made tools of their own design to help them convert blocks of raw ice into amazing works of art. The fragile nature of ice makes it impossible for any part of the carving process to be automated. Everything you see at a snow show was done by hand!
Finally, many ice shows are built like theme parks where the sculptures and buildings tell a story that unfolds to the guests as they walk through the snow show. A fairytale wood made of ice and snow makes an enchanting setting for a winter tale. Sometimes performers are involved in the telling as well… in fact, some ice shows have ice rinks built into them to allow for a dazzling live show! The creativity that goes into a snow show is truly amazing.
So why do artists put in so much time and effort on something that, by its very nature, cannot last? Some artists like the challenge of working with such a beautiful but fragile medium. Others enjoy the fact that they can practice their favorite sculptures again and again until they get every detail perfect. Still others take joy in seeing their artwork become part of a magical whole… imagine seeing a skating show in a palace that you planned and built! But perhaps the most wonderful part of being an ice sculptor is the chance to see the beauty of all those hand-made creations reflected in the eyes of the guests who visit the snow show. Next time you go to see the ice sculptures, remember that you are part of what makes the experience unique!
This post was written by Stewart Niesporek, an ice-sculpture enthusiast.