135th History: Ice Carvings & Snow Sculptures, A Magical Winter Tradition

For many years, local artists have crafted detailed and beautiful winter masterpieces from Minnesota’s most abundant materials, ice & snow! The tradition of these masterpieces dates back to the very first Winter Carnival. Thousands travel from all around the world to look in awe at their beauty. Do you have a fond memory of a particular ice or snow carving?  

Did You Know?!

  • The Snow Sculpting competition at the Winter Carnival serves as one of the qualifying competitions for the National Snow Sculpting competition. (Due to the pandemic, there will not be an official competition in 2021 BUT the same sculptors are returning!)
  • A competition snow block measures 8’X8’X8′
  • There are 17 snow block sculptures this year including sponsorship blocks.
  • Prior to using snow making equipment, snow blocks were packed with snow plowed from city streets and transported to the locations. Como Park, Rice Park, Kellogg Blvd, State Capitol, and Summit Avenue all served as locations for snow sculpting. One year, snow sculpting took place at the John Rose Oval in Roseville and ice shavings from the hockey rinks were used as “snow”.
  • For official snow sculpting competitions, no power towels are allowed. And no paint or artificial colors either.
  • H2O is the secret compound used to cement ice blocks together..
  • Unicorns are a favored ice sculpture. Snowflakes are one of the hardest.
  • The worst thing for ice and snow sculptures – warm weather!

 

Ice & Snow Carvings Throughout the Years…

A Tradition From the Beginning…

Can you believe this tradition dates back to the very first Winter Carnival?  See photos below featuring designs from 1886! Minnesotans have always gotten crafty with the winter elements around them! 

 

More Great Resources

Looking for more great history about the Saint Paul Winter Carnival? Visit the Minnesota Historical Society’s online database and the Ramsey County Historical Society’s online database and search, “Winter Carnival.”

Thank you and credit goes to the Minnesota Historical Society; the Ramsey County Historical Society; archives of the Pioneer Press and “Fire and Ice” by Moira Harris for helping contribute to this collection of 135th History! Also, thank you to Winter Carnival’s own, Tom Barrett, for helping us digitize all this history!