World Ice Art Championships
February 27 to March 27
Of all ice-sculpting competitions around the world, the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, is likely the biggest, using more ice and attracting more competitors than any other annual event. It helps that frigid Fairbanks, located just 125 miles from the Artic Circle, naturally produces some of the highest quality carving ice around, which it has shipped to carvers as far away as Israel.
About 100 ice artists from around the world compete in two main competitions, the Single-Block Classic, which runs between February 27 and March 1, and the Multi-Block Classic, which runs March 4 to 9. In the first competition, the sculptors must work with a single four-ton block of ice; in the second, artists construct a sculpture using 10 blocks weighing a total of about 22 tons.
Spectators can watch the artists at work and then view the finished pieces throughout the monthlong event. There's also a junior sculpting competition, an ice park for kids, and a skating rink. Admission costs $8 per adult.
International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race
Wyoming and Utah
January 26 to February 3
This winter, you don't have to travel to the high Arctic to see world-class dog sled races: top dogs and their mushers are coming to two of the most popular ski towns in the West for the eight-day International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race (IPSSSDR). The race starts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where about 30 12-dog sled teams driven by professional mushers from around the world head out on a 352-mile journey to Park City, Utah.
Unlike the more well-known Iditarod, which is a race to the finish with stops only at mandatory checkpoints, the IPSSSDR is run in eight stages with overnight stays in towns along the route (the organizers liken it to a "doggie Tour de France"), which is easier on the dogs. Spectators are welcomed to cheer on the dogs in Jackson and Park City as well as the seven other small Wyoming communities where the teams overnight: Lander, Cora, Pinedale, Big Piney/Marbleton, Alpine, Kemmerer/Diamondville, and Evanston.
There's a kick-off event in Jackson with fireworks, a torchlight parade, and live entertainment, and the other towns hosting the racers are planning festivities like banquets and snowshoe softball games. It's free to watch the race but there may be a small charge to eat at the town dinners.
Sapporo Snow Festival
February 6 to 12
Faithful ice reproductions of historic structures like Angkor Wat and five-story-tall Pokemon snow sculptures are just a few of the sights you may see at the Sapporo Snow Festival, the biggest winter event in Japan. During the event, more than 300 ice and snow sculptures carved by Japanese and international teams are displayed in three sites throughout the city of Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido.
The mile-long Odori Park is lined with more than 200 of the biggest snow sculptures—some measuring up to 50 feet high and 80 feet long—while the Susukino entertainment district will hold about 100 ice sculptures. Popular sculpture designs include anime characters, famous buildings, and movie scenes. Snow slides, mazes, and other kid-friendly attractions will be constructed in the Sato-Land amusement park. The event is free.