For true snow sculpture aficionados, Harbin, China, hosts perhaps the world’s greatest International Ice and Snow Sculpting Festival. The month-long festival draws tourists from around the world to the northeastern corner of China where icy winds blow in from Siberia and bring plenty of sculpting material.

A large snow sculpture of two violins.

Violin snow sculpture taken at Ottawa’s Winterlude.
Photo by Matthew Ingram licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

If a trip to China isn’t on your travel itinerary this January, there are several snow and ice sculpture competitions closer to home.

Whether inundated with snow eight months of the year or having never thrown a snowball, kids young and old will experience snow like never before at these amazing snow sculpting competitions.

Although competitors prepare for months in advance, these events inspire artists of all ages to build a better snowman. And with all that leftover snow just lying around, you might schedule some time on the slopes as well.

East Coast

Syracuse, NY hosts a Winterfest that features a full blown snowman building competition. That event, of course, is only one of the many activities visitors can enjoy. Ice skating, museum shows, dancing, comedy showcases, athletic events, and dining experiences are all par for the course in this winter wonderland.

The Vermont State Snow Sculpting Competition in Burlington, VTis held to choose the state’s representative in the national competition the following year. As in many sculpting competitions, the public can vote for their favorite to receive a special award.


Chicago, IL celebrates snow by hosting an annual Snow Days festival where the public can view the ongoing snow sculpting competition and participate in other snow-themed activities. Two hours west of Chicago, Rockford has been hosting Illinois’ State Snow Sculpting Competitions for over 25 years. Winners at this competition represent the state at a national level.

St. Paul, MN has been hosting an event every winter for over 125 years: the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. Parades, talent shows, ice carving, snow sculpting, and ice skating are the mainstays of the week-long festivities, but there are literally dozens of other events ranging from basketball games to fashion shows to occupy your time.

Rocky Mountains

Seeley Lake, MT features a Winterfest that includes – other than snow sculpting – a range of winter athletic events (including biathlons, backcountry skiing, and dogsledding) in addition to more sedate food- and music-centered events. As with most festivals, fireworks, parades, and family-friendly activities are included!

Farther north, Edmonton, AB, Canada hosts an annual Silver Skate Festival. In addition to snow sculpting, races, skating demonstrations, film festivals, dance performances, and a fire sculpture competition are activities the whole family can enjoy.

West Coast

California is generally thought of as “sunny,” but that doesn’t stop the snow from falling in the Sierras! Lake Tahoe’s Snow Festival is a long-standing festival focusing on winter sports, but there is a snowman-building competition open to public participation. This North Shore festival has events for all ages and inclinations, many of them centered in the Tahoe City area, near Squaw Valley, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The modest town of Chelan, WA transforms itself every winter for the Lake Chelan Winterfest. Sleigh rides, ice skating, and snow sculpting are stuffed into a celebratory weekend that includes fireworks, a torchlight parade, and live music. Stop by this family-friendly event, where there’s something for every winter-loving traveler!

Have you ever seen a playground made entirely of ice? Then be on your way to Fairbanks, AK! This city has been hosting the World Ice Art Championships for nearly 25 years. The month-long event attracts more than a hundred ice artists and thousands of visitors, though some may skip the main competition and spend all their time in the three-acre Kid’s Park made entirely out of ice!