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Elite Snow Carvers Converge On Lake Geneva Today

While most Midwesterners head to a beach or hit the slopes for a much needed break, winter vacation for a select group of individuals means battling days of sub-zero temperatures to create massive works of art that only endure as long as the temperature remains below freezing.

For elite snow sculptors, the dead of winter means packing up the tools of their trade and heading to Lake Geneva, WI to compete in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship, the top snow sculpting competition for U.S. carvers.

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The U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship begins Wednesday, Feb. 2 with judging set for the morning of Saturday, Feb. 5.

The competition is the centerpiece of Lake Geneva's annual Winterfest celebration, a festival of family and fun along the banks of Geneva Lake.

Weekend activities include horse drawn carriage and helicopter rides, children's entertainment in the famed Riviera Ballroom, a 1-mile, 5k and 10k walk/run and a winter carnival at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa's downhill ski facility.

Traveling from as far away as Alaska, the team's labor for three bone-chilling days and nights to create intricate, gravity-defying sculptures from three-ton, 10-foot-tall cylinders of snow.

The sculptors, men and women of all ages and from all walks of life, relish the opportunity to work side-by-side with the best in the business, each hoping to be crowned national champion.

"Competing in the National Championship is an amazing challenge and one of the most unique experiences I've ever had as a sculptor," said championship snow sculptor David Andrews, who has participated in the competition several times. "It's hard to explain, but there's something that happens when we're close to the end and working on the finishing touches. You look at what the team has created, the works of the other teams and recall the events of the past week. It's truly a euphoric moment. You say to yourself, 'Look what I've created out of snow.'"

Each snow sculpting team consists of three members, 18 years and older from the same state. No assistance is allowed at the sculpture site, except that given by competition organizers and ground crews. No media other than snow, ice or water are used in the snow sculpting process. The rules also stipulate that power tools are not permitted. The teams rely on saws, axes, files, scaffolding, shovels and a variety of homemade implements created to exacting specifications.

"It's not uncommon to see the sculptors working late into the night on Friday," said George Hennerley, president of the Lake Geneva Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "In fact, most of the teams will forgo sleep to ensure their sculptures are perfect for judging on Saturday morning."

According to Hennerley, spectators shouldn't fret if snow is scarce as all of the snow utilized in the competition is produced and supplied locally by Grand Geneva Resort & Spa.

"The sculptors prefer artificial snow as it melts slower than natural snow and carves extremely well," added Hennerley. "The lack of foreign objects is also a big plus. There are no surprises."

For additional information on the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship and Winterfest, visit or contact the Lake Geneva Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 345-1020.


Comments welcome.


Posted on February 2, 2011

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