World's Most Amazing Snow Sculptures
13 astounding creations made by outdoor carvers using everyday tools
Next time you're stuck at home with the kids on a snow day and they won't pull themselves away from the video games, show them these astounding sculptures. Maybe they'll get inspired to run outside and try to build a better snowman. Because as these crafty creations show, you don't need much more than a few basic tools to turn packed powder into something seriously special. Click through to see the best of all the winter wonders we saw, and read on to learn some trusted techniques for building your own detailed and sturdy snow figures. If you follow our advice, you too can build a winter wonderland. After all, the materials are free!
A display at the 2008 Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, titled "Romantic Feelings," was designed to be the world's largest snow sculpture. The massive creation measured 656 feet long and 115 feet tall. The structure was built using blocks of compressed snow that were 15 feet on each side. Carvers used shovels and hoes to etch the snowy scene.
The detailed, life-size trees in this sculpture earned it second place at the 2009 St. Paul Winter Carnival in Minnesota. Sculptors often use woodworking tools, like rasps, to create intricate carvings like the branches seen here. For a smoother finish, builders use sandpaper to rub away any noticeable imperfections.
Aptly named "WHEEEEEE!!," this carefree creation hides a serious structural challenge: supporting all that snow hanging over the gaps in the sculpture. Builders use wooden supports to bear the load of particularly fragile areas in the display, removing them when the masterpiece is finished (while crossing their fingers that there wouldn't be a collapse).
Huge displays, like this 20-foot-tall exhibit, are carved from a single block of snow. Builders compressed the snow into massive cubes using wooden forms. Artists then removed the negative space around their sculptures with heavy-duty tools, such as axes or ice saws.
This frozen goddess dazzled spectators at the 2010 U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship with her realistic features. This face's sculptors used everyday tools like a small chisel for the details and a coarse brush to smooth out the edges.
"They Call Him Old Man Winter" won first place in the 2007 International Snow Sculpture Competition in Breckenridge, Colorado. Artists in the competition have been known to use everything from wood saws to cheese graters to craft their displays.
Tokyo Disneyland celebrated its 25th anniversary with a massive exhibit in Sapporo, Japan. The sculpture was 50 feet tall and even included working lights, which meant workers needed scaffolding to reach the gigantic mound of snow as they carved.
This 15-foot masterpiece is the perfect marriage between two great winter pastimes: ice hockey and snow sculpting. But smooth rounded snow like what you see on the front of these skates can elude even the most skilled of craftspeople. Some artists resort to making their own tools, such as a custom snow sander made by attaching flat metal nail plates (for framing connections) to a grout float.
Fans of the Wimpy, from Popeye, showed appreciation for the character by depicting him as a life-size snowman with his favorite treat: hamburgers. The food theme can even extend to the sculpture's construction—a durable knife is a great tool for carving out snowy details (like Wimpy's mustache).
A sphinx standing at almost 60 feet tall was the highlight of the display at the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan a couple of years back. Traditionally, teams in the festival's annual carving competition are provided with four shovels, two chisels, an axe, a hatchet, and one scaffold. They must bring other specially crafted tools from home, though power tools are not permitted.
After clearing away larger chunks of snow with an axe or saw, you can use the edge of a margin trowel to carve elaborate details—like the laces on this skate—or to smooth rounded, snowy edges.
These dinosaurs were carved by thousands of soldiers from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, a volunteer civilian military organization. Every year, 20,000 soldiers haul 300,000 tons of snow to the Sapporo Snow Festival, where they sculpt some of the bigger exhibits. Larger tools like shovels and brooms were necessary to tackle this massive 40-foot-tall carving project.
This 10-foot-tall snowboarder started out as a very hard block of snow, which is one trick to creating a structurally sound and incredibly smooth final creation. Sculptors often wear knee pads while carving, because they spend so much time leaning on compressed snow to work on the small details of an exhibit.