14 January 2013 from Nikki in 'Out of the ordinary''

ice sculpture

If you’re lucky enough to be in the Savoie region in the French Alps this week, then there is an exceptional exhibition that mustn’t be missed!

This unforgettable outdoor art gallery will delight everyone from 0 to 99 years old and from the most humble soul to the most hardened culture vulture! The 22nd Ice Sculpture Competition will be held this week in Valloire, the largest ski area of the Haute Maurienne region. The exhibition starts from tomorrow and continues until Friday.

International talent

Come and join the often speechless crowds and admire the stunning ice sculptures created by 20 sculptors from France and the rest of the world who compete with incredible creativity and imagination with the hope of winning 1st prize. Each artist has 4 days to complete his or her creation and depending on the climatic conditions, sculptors sometimes continue for part of the night when lower temperatures make for easier sculpting!

ice lantern

A bit of background

There are many cold places across the world where it seems that man discovered the usefulness and beauty of ice a long way back. Two stories that particularly caught my eye were:

Ice lanterns in China: In the 1600s, native hunters and fishermen in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, on the border of Russia, sculpted ice lanterns to use at night. These laterns soon became very popular and people started hanging decorated lanterns outside their homes and using them in carnivals. In 1897, the Transsiberian Railway was extended through the small Chinese fishing town of Harbin in the same province. Harbin soon grew into a cosmopolitan city and is now home to an annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival which features the work of thousands of artists from all over the world !

Ice palace in Russia : In 1740, the first monumental scale ice palace was commissioned by the Empress Anna. This stunning construction was designed by Piotr Eropkin and featured ice cannons that fired real ice cannon balls and even an ice elephant that sprayed water out of its trunk. Since then, there has been no stopping the Russian ice sculptors and complete ice towns have been built in the northern cities of Russia.

In St. Petersburg in 2000, a replica of Anna's ice palace was built in the first International Sand and Ice festival which was held there. An impressive 21 feet tall over 980 square feet, the palace was built by fusing together blocks of ice from the Neva river. Russians claim that St. Petersburg was where ice sculpture began!


ice sculpture competition

Where and when

Valloire-Galibier is surprisingly the only resort in France to host this kind of event and has been doing so since 1991. The contest takes place 2km from Valloire in the hamlet "Les Verneys".

The contest starts tonight (Monday 14th of January) after dinner and it finishes on Friday 18th of January, at 3 pm.

From tomorrow until Friday, come and discover the artists at work - day and night – this is an unforgettable experience for the whole family… Mulled wine and hot chocolate will be available to warm your hands while admiring the artists’ work.

The prize giving takes place on Friday at 5.30pm followed by a musical light show around the sculptures, a torch-lit descent and fireworks ! The sculptures will stay illuminated until 10pm so there is plenty of time to come back and admire them once the crowds have left…

There will be a free shuttle service making trips between Valloire and Les Verneys from 3 pm to 10 pm.

There will even be an ICE SCULPTING INITIATION so you can get involved ! From 9am until noon and 2pm until 6 pm on Thursday and Friday you can try your hand at ice sculpting with the guidance of French sculptor, Vincent Liévore.

Leave a comment if you've seen any ice sculptures on your travels in cold places or post a photo on our Facebook page.

from Jules on 15 January

Wow! shame as we're off skiing on Saturday but not anywhere near this! Have to keep it in mind for next year...

from Amanda & James on 28 January

We went and it was amazing! Thanks to your article, we had an amazing afternoon and stayed late in the evening to see the sculptures lit up at night! It was just breathtaking and highly recommended. Thanks so much for the info!

from Laura on 19 May

I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, thanks for all the great posts.

from Jenny on 20 May

I have been browsing online more than 3 hours, but I by no means discovered any interesting articles like yours.

from Karen on 27 May

Such a lovely subject - made me forget the world for a moment looking at the fabulous photos. Thanks

from Jean on 28 May

This looks awesome - noted for our next visit to the area.

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Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!