• Ice sculpture at Chateau Lake Louise

    Ice sculpture at Chateau Lake Louise. (Photo: Paul Morrison)

AS THE DAYS SHORTEN and temperatures drop, resist the temptation to hole up indoors. Instead, embrace the grandeur of winter with these can’t-miss festivals. Whether you’re looking for a weekend activity for the family, want to connect with new people or are simply looking for an excuse to drink a lot of hot chocolate, there’s a frosty fête for you.

Ice On Whyte
Cold? Yes. Dark? Yes. Boring? Never. Certainly there’s no shortage of wintry fun to be had at this January festival. Started by local sculptors carving frozen creations in a local Edmonton park, Ice On Whyte has grown to become one of the most popular events in the city, and now attracts talented carvers from around the world. Kids can enjoy the huge ice slide and Li’l Chipper ice carving lessons, and adults will marvel at how beautiful the stuff they usually scrape off their car windshields can become. Visit iceonwhyte.ca for more info.

Jasper in January
If you want Banff without the crowds, Jasper’s your place. And there’s no better time to immerse yourself in its mountain town camaraderie than at the Jasper in January Festival, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. Over the last two weeks of the month, the community comes together to host a family-oriented street party, a winter pentathlon and a costumed chili cook-off, with lots of live music and hot chocolate. With most events happening on the weekends and discounted lift tickets at the local Marmot Basin ski hill, it’s also a good time to schedule a ski weekend getaway. Check out jasper.travel/jasper-in-january-2014 for more details.

Ice Magic Festival
What would you do with a 140-kilogram ice cube? Ten teams, by invitation only, tackle 15 ice blocks each to produce astounding sculptures at the Ice Magic Festival. The January event takes place on the shores beside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. If speed is more your style, check out the One Carver, One Hour, One Block competition. After voting for the people’s choice winner, skate around the ice castle built on a shovelled portion of the lake. The two-weekend festival is the centrepiece of SnowDays — a month long celebration in Banff National Park. Search “Ice Magic Festival” at banfflakelouise.com for more.

Ice carver Steve Buzak (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Q&A with an ice carver

Steve Buzak, of the Ice Dreams Canadian team, talks about his work
 

Q. How did you become an ice carver?
It started at The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. I took a personal interest, as I seemed to be good at it. Then I started my career with someone who wanted to help me to develop these skills

Q. Why do you like ice carving?
It’s not something that lasts, but it has that “wow” factor. Not even some of the best artists can do it; carving in ice is extremely difficult for some. It also melts, so you really have a short time to enjoy it.

Q. What was tricky about last year’s Ice on Whyte festival?
It was too warm, so we couldn’t start carving until the middle of the night. In the end, even with much less time than usual, we still did get the 2,000-pound sculpture up, supported by two-to-three inch-wide pieces of ice.

Q. What’s your favourite ice sculpture that you’ve made?
Either King Kong at Edmonton’s Ice on Whyte festival, or the 14.5-foot high oil derrick, which was very difficult.  From these sculptures, we created new rules for the National Ice Carving Association – no lathes allowed.

Q. Do you have any advice for someone who’s interested in getting into the field?
Be patient and take the time to learn to do things right.

Photos:

Ken Harper and Steve Buzak pose with their ice sculpture “It’s On.” (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Area for sculptures at 2014 Ice on Whyte festival. (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Ice sculpture at the 2014 Ice on Whyte festival (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Ice sculpture at the 2014 Ice on Whyte festival (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

A popular feature of the Ice On Whyte festival is the giant ice slide (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

A popular feature of the Ice On Whyte festival is the giant ice slide (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Ice sculpture at the 2014 Ice on Whyte festival (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Ice sculpture at the 2014 Ice on Whyte festival (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Young child enjoying the popular giant ice slide at the Ice On Whyte festival (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)

Ice sculptures at the 2014 Ice on Whyte festival (Photo: Sabrina Doyle)