Since 2003, Edmonton’s Ice on Whyte Ice Carving Festival has become one of the city’s most anticipated winter events, drawing thousands of visitors every year.
And every year, organizers and competitors in the international ice carving competition have to deal with whatever nature doles out.
Festival marketing co-ordinator Karli Anderson said this year, extremely cold temperatures have had an impact on festival attendance.
The sculpture judging on January 15 coincided with a cold snap. 1,500 people came out to see which creations would be crowned winners, Anderson said, but that number was down significantly from last year, when 10,000 people passed through Festival Park on the first Saturday of the 10-day festival.
“It was -26°C and the wind was freezing,” Anderson said.
“I'm amazed at the number of people who still bundled up their kids and came out.”
The bone-chilling temperature also posed a challenge for the sculptors, who had to use a more delicate touch on their creations.
Delayne Corbett, an ice sculptor from Victoria, B.C. who helped organize this year's festival, said the colder it gets, the harder the ice is to work with.
“When you're carving with a sharp chisel and it’s too cold, the ice is very brittle and it chips very easily in random patterns,” he said.
Conversely, when the air is too warm, the ice becomes soft and opaque and the artists aren't able to maintain the clarity and definition that make for a winning sculpture.
The ideal temperature for ice carving is between -10 and -15°C, Corbett said.
Temperatures in Edmonton will start warming up on Thursday and stay above seasonal through the weekend, which is good news for people hoping to visit the ice carving festival.
However, the balmy weather means organizers will have to keep a close eye on the sculptures as they start to melt.
“For me personally, it's a lovely thing to watch the sculpture deteriorate - it's just nature's way of recreating what man made,” Corbett said.
“But we are a little concerned about safety because we have some larger elements, so we'll just keep an eye on those and see how it progresses.”
If some of the structures start to weaken, the resident carvers can go in and reinforce them, Anderson said.
The sculptures might lose some detail, she added, “but it's still pretty.”
The Ice on Whyte Festival is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on the weekend from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until January 23.
To best plan your day, check out your local forecast on TV every 10 minutes on the 10s on The Weather Network.