Saturday, January 30, 2016

Magic Ice

On one of my fall hiking outings up to the Banf National Park, I stepped into the Banff visitor center to ask about trail conditions. While waiting for my turn my eye caught a small poster, advertising the Ice Magic Festival. Intrigued by the wording I decided to get more information.
Turns out the highlight of the Ice Magic Festival is the International Ice Carving that sounded really interesting!

Every 3rd weekend in January ice carvers from all over the world meet here to compete. Ten teams of two, that are specially invited for this event, have 34 hours to transform  15 300 lb blocks of competition ice* (specially prepared ice to be perfectly clear and without any bubbles) into a sculpture that represents the competition motto. This years motto: "Earth, Wind, Fire & Water, Elements of Life"
* details of rules at the end of the blog

Full of anticipation I drove up to Lake Louise the Wednesday after the 22nd competition, the weather forecast for that day was the most promising of that week. I shortly had considered spending the weekend of the competition in Banff but sky-high hotel prices and fear of just too many people around let me chose otherwise. In retrospect...I should have bitten the bullet, but one is always smarter later, right?

 Please click on images to enlarge them for more detail
Coming around the corner to Lake Louise from the parking lot I caught a look onto the lake and pun intended...there was "only" an ice castle and hundreds of skaters, but no ice sculptures. Had they already melted? No way, it was way to cold for that. Going further I finally saw the first signs hinting at the competition and by following them I found the magic. They were not on the lake as I had thought but on the shore wrapping around the lake-side of the Chateau.

 "Freedom" by Team Double Dutch Trouble
At that time of the year the sun only shines on Lake Louise between 10 and 11 am...unfortunately around this time it was actually snowing in Lake Louise, here went my imagined photos from the sun star-bursting in the sculptures...

 Detail of "Freedom"

Later in the morning the snow fall had stopped and the weather turned overcast with a few moments of blue sky.
The dull light made it extremely difficult to photograph the sculptures. Even without trying to capture the sculptures with the camera I had a hard time grasping the full detail of the sculptures. The snow that had settled on the sculptures didn't help either.

Most of the carvings had sketches of their sculptures close by, as here seen at the sculpture of Team Ice Art of Siberia, which helped to fully appreciate the carving.

Team Texas' sculpture seemed a bit out of place. With a sculpture like this I rather envision desert and dry heat. But maybe this "opposite" was the artists' intention. And the detail was just amazing.

What I missed was a proper labeling of the art work. Maybe that was better at the time of the actual competition, but as I was there, I saw the team names with a drawing of the proposed sculpture and a short biography of the artists, but missed the name of the sculpture and how they fared in the competition. An overview plan would have been nice, too.
The signage was just not up to the standards of an international competition at a world class hotel...:

Along the pathway, between the sculptures, smaller, out of competition ice sculptures lined the way

Although I did not really liked the snow on the sculptures, this snowflake looked just perfect with the snowy puffs on top.

California dreamin' at the shores of Lake Louise....;-) An absolute stunning sculpture, my favorite of all the ice carvings, but I literally stood in front of this for about 3 minutes until I figured out what it actually is.....can you?

 "Dancing Water" by Team Junichi & Dean

 The carving below made the Carver,s Choice Award as well as the People's Choice Award and is depicting a sad but lovely story

 "The Beloved Blue Shore" by Team Sakha

"Three fishermen and a child are stranded on the ocean after a fishing trip got shrouded in fog. Each of the men, beginning with the oldest, debates with himself whether his continued survival will benefit anyone. And when he senses the answer is "no", slips into the sea until only the youngest is left. At which point the boat, seemingly by chance, bumps against the shore."
 "The Beloved Blue Shore" detail

Finally I came to this empty spot, fenced off, with a sign pointing out a carving from Team Wicked Pissah. Wondering what had happened here I researched a bit and found out that something "wicked" had happened to this team: In the last minutes of the 34th hour the sculpture collapsed after they removed a supporting structure.....

 The sky cleared and the fog rose over Lake Louise, covering the lake and shore with a white blanket...time to drive home. But I will be back next year, with better timing and hopefully better weather.

For all that are interested, the details of the competition rules...note, that there is no powered equipment allowed to move the blocks...

From the Banff Lake Louise website " Competition Information"

Site selection will take place at the Welcome Reception on Thursday, January 14 at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Before the competition begins, the boundaries between sites will be marked. *New for 2016 – Should winners from 2015 qualify for the 2016 competition, those teams will get the chance to choose their desired carving site.  Before the competition begins, the boundaries between sites will be marked.  Teams may arrange tools, prepare power lines and scaffolding before the official start of the competition, but may not mark nor sculpt the ice blocks.  Also new for 2016, carvers will be allowed to work on their sculptures on Friday and Saturday evening from 10pm – 11pm provided they do not use any power tools – chisels and polishing only.

Teams will be provided with 15 blocks of ice and will be responsible for the orientation and placement of the blocks.
Teams are not allowed to use powered equipment for lifting or moving any of the ice. However, lifting or moving assistance from judges, staff or other carvers is allowed.

  • Teams can have no more than 2 members
  • Teams must use original submitted designs
  • Teams must stay on theme
  • Sculptures must be at least 7ft tall
  • Sculptures must not be over 13.5ft tall
  • No lathes allowed
  • Total carving time permitted over 3 days - 34 hours in total
  • Each team will receive 15 blocks of Cleinbell sculpting ice, standard 300 lbs per block
  • Teams must use only and all the ice that has been provided
  • Design must be sculpted on all sides
  • The only materials allowed are ice and water
  • Natural snow may not be used as a bonding agent
  • Snow made from original allotment of ice may be used in the sculpture
  • No artificial props, decorations and colouring of ice
  • Teams must work within the timelines allotted, however breaks are at the teams discretion
  • At the end of the competition, all teams must completely remove all tools and debris and have the site ready for final presentation and judging