“We make the best ice” claim the volunteers from Ice Alaska who are responsible for cutting the 1,000 blocks of pond ice needed by the carvers who will turn these blocks into beautiful and awe-inspiring works of art.
Before they can begin cutting the ice it must be scraped free of snow, cutting lines drawn with spray paint and then grooved with a small chainsaw. The ice blocks used for the single block competition are 5-by-8 square feet and the blocks for the multi-block competition are 4-by-6 square feet. All the blocks are about 30 inches thick.
Once the blocks are marked and cut they are guided to a waiting extendable-boom forklift waiting at the edge of the hole in the ice. The forklift is submerged, the blocks are guided onto the forks and are lifted out of the water and placed in rows with other blocks. They must sit for several days so they can adjust to the air temperature before being carved.
Because the water is so pure and the winter temperatures so cold, the ice has a slight glacial blue tint. It is so clear that a person can read a newspaper through a four-foot block of ice. The sculptors say that Fairbanks ice is the best ice in the world for sculpting. Because of its translucent quality, it is known as “Arctic Diamond”.
While waiting at the Fairbanks airport last night, I was glancing through the Fairbanks Winter Guidebook and came upon a wonderful quote from Steve Brice, a 16-time World Champion ice sculptor from Fairbanks. “Living in Fairbanks for an ice sculptor is like living in Italy near the marble quarries for a stone sculptor. Fairbanks has become the mecca for the ice sculpting world because of the possibilities of what can be done on a large scale with large ice and a stable environment.” He went on to say, “The excitement of the public viewing an ice sculptor at work is the fuel that pushes ice carvers to ever higher levels year after year.” His quote ends with “As nice as some photographs of ice carvings are, it is not the same as seeing them in person.”
To see what Steve is carving at this year’s Ice Art Championship competition, come to the park and visit site 33 for the single blocks. Judging will take place tonight and the award ceremony will be tomorrow night, March 2nd. After the award ceremony, the sculptures may be viewed at night with colored lights, turning the ice magical.