More Alaska Ice and Snow Art! Anchorage, Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs

Alaska snow sculpture at Fur Rendezvous 2016

While the sun had obviously impacted this snow sculpture of a native Alaskan, I felt it carried a certain power. It reminded me of the fate of so many Native Americans, fading away while continuing to struggle for existence, possibly even regaining some of their lost heritage.

Alaskans believe in global warming. “It’s only snowed here twice this winter,” my friend Nancy Babb Stone groused when Peggy and I joined her and her husband Bart for dinner at their home in Anchorage. Many years earlier Nancy and I had taken a small, sleepy non-profit and turned it into a major player on health and environmental issues in Alaska. It was great to see her again. We spent a fair amount of time reminiscing.

The winter, or lack thereof, was cutting seriously into Nancy and Bart’s winter sports activities they told us. It was also melting the snow at the Fur Rendezvous’ snow carving contest. Peggy and I, along with our son Tony and his family, had been there twice to check out the sculptures. I was afraid if we looked away for a few minutes they might dissolve into large puddles of water. Even in their semi-melted forms the snow sculptures were fun, however. I was particularly attracted to the snow monsters.

City destroying snow sculpture monster at 2016 Fur Rendezvous snow carving contest.

This city destroying nightmare reminded me of a Japanese radiation-enhanced movie monster from the 1960s.

Calvin and Hobbes snow monster at 2016 Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage, Alaska

I looked at this huge mouth ready to consume a screaming snowman and something clicked in the back of my mind.  I had seen this monster before…

4 Calvin 1

This cartoon at the side of the sculpture confirmed my suspicion. Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes was a master at creating snow monsters.

Thankfully, it was colder at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks. As I mentioned in my posts on the competition, the ice park also included a kids’ play area and the pond where the ice for carving is located. The carvers have nicknamed the pristine blue ice that comes out of the pond, Arctic Diamond.

It wasn’t the purity of the ice that captured the attention of our 3, 5, and 7-year old grandsons, however. It was the fact that the park was full of ice slides, things to crawl on, over and into, and fun ice sculptures. The kids couldn’t get enough. They were given special permission to stay up late. We shut down the park. “Would you like us to leave lights on for you?” a park attendant asked at 10:30 p.m.— and was serious. I really couldn’t imagine that happening anywhere other than Alaska.

Ice steam engine at the Kid's Ice Park in Fairbanks, Alaska 2016.

A favorite of mine at the ice park. Note the ice smoke! The boys were exploring the rail cars.

Ice sculptures, such as this train carved out of ice, are lit up at night at the Fairbanks Ice Park.

The train lit up at night.

Tony and sons come barreling off one of the slick ice slides on a plastic sled peggy bought for the purpose. Yahoo!

Tony, Connor, and Cooper come barreling off a slick ice slide on a plastic sled Peggy bought for the purpose. Yahoo! The kids survived the day and night; the sled didn’t.

Granson Chris and I tackle another slide at night, without the sled.

Grandson Chris and I tackle another slide, this time at night and without the sled. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The slides could be quite bumpy and Peggy had just slid over a large one. Ouch! Our daughter-in-law Cammie had loaned her the "marshmallow" jacket.

The slides could be quite bumpy and Peggy had just slid over a large one. Ouch! Our daughter-in-law Cammie had loaned her the fluffy but warm “marshmallow” jacket that made her look a bit like a sumo wrestler.

Another slide was connected with this dragon assaulting a castle.

Another slide was connected with this dragon assaulting a castle.

This mammoth lit up at night fronted for another slide.

And this wooly mammoth as well.

I really liked this snake dragon...

I really liked this snake dragon…

And this whale.

And this whale.

Peggy and I have always wanted a log cabin. But this one may be a little cold.

Peggy and I have always wanted a log cabin. But this one may be a little cold! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Our furthest north adventure was at Chena Hot Springs, about an hour from Fairbanks. We spent two nights there, and, I wish to report, it was ‘put on all your spare clothes’ cold, dropping to a minus 10˙ F at night.  Our adventures in ice carving continued at the Aurora Ice Museum, home to Steve Brice, 15-time world ice carving champion, and his wife Heather Brice, six-time world ice carving champion. Both had participated in the Fairbanks competition.

The road to Chena Hot Springs. I kept looking for moose. There were plenty of tracks but I didn't spot one.

The road to Chena Hot Springs. I kept looking for moose. There were plenty of tracks but I didn’t spot one.

Dinner and service at the rustic Chena Hot Springs Lodge were excellent. Here the family wishes me a Happy Birthday.

Dinner and service at the rustic Chena Hot Springs Lodge were excellent. Here the family wishes me a happy birthday. “Are you really that old, Grandpa!?”

Our exploration of ice art continued at the Aurora Ice Museum at Chena.

Our exploration of ice art continued at the Aurora Ice Museum.

This fish with its huge lips was amusing.

This carved ice fish with its huge lips was amusing. Pucker up.

I thought this carved ice head of a seahorse was rather elegant.

I thought this carved ice head of a seahorse was rather elegant.

Here we are toasting out of carved ice glasses at a bar made out of ice, while sitting on ice chairs. We had hoped to be toasting Tony's appointment as a commander at the US Naval Academy in Connecticut. He did receive the appointment, but not until after we had returned to Oregon.

Here we are toasting out of carved ice glasses at a bar made out of ice, while sitting on ice chairs (fortunately fur covered). We had hoped to be toasting Tony’s appointment as Company Officer for cadets interested in aviation at the US Naval Academy in Connecticut. He did receive the appointment, but not until after we had returned to Oregon.

Chena had great food and friendly people, but the lodging left a little to be desired, especially for the $200 a night price tag. I’d go with second-hand shabby as a description of our room, which they never got around to cleaning at the end of our first day. I could have lived with this except for the lack of sound-proofing.

Whenever anyone came in or went out the door banged. If they lived upstairs, the banging was followed by a mini-earthquake clomp, clomp, clomp. Again, it would have been tolerable had it stopped, say around ten. But on our second night, it went on and on— until one a.m. The lovely Peggy slept through it. I got out my sound maker and turned it on high. No luck: slam clomp, clomp, clomp! I put the sound maker three inches away from my ear: slam, clomp, clomp, clomp! I put a pillow over my head: slam, clomp, clomp, clomp! every 15 minutes, like clock work. I begin to contemplate doing things that a peace-loving guy like me doesn’t do. I begin to hallucinate. Our hotel was drug central for Alaska and people were carefully scheduled to pick up their illegal stash every 15 minutes to avoid running into each other.

The next day a friend suggested another possibility. It was a cross-cultural lesson. Chena Hot Springs occasionally provides views of the Aurora Borealis. Asians, and particularly Japanese, so I was told, believe that a child conceived under the Northern Lights will have great gifts. Our hotel was pretty much packed with people traveling from Asia. What if every 15 minutes or so, one of the husbands would go outside and check to see if the sky was dancing while his wife waited patiently for the great moment? Had I known that, I would have sat in my doorway and wished the guys good luck!

NEXT BLOG: Queens, dogs, and a very large colon in the Fur Rendezvous Parade— and an exciting Outhouse Race.

27 comments on “More Alaska Ice and Snow Art! Anchorage, Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs

  1. So much in this post to enjoy. More beautiful ice sculptures. I especially enjoyed the kids’ sculptures. The 3 pieces you showed from the Aurora Ice Museum are exquisite, especially the face. Don’t you use earplugs Curt? I’ve been using the every night here in Mexico – loud persistent yapping dogs!
    Alison

    • Maybe I’ll take up ear plugs, Alison. 🙂 I’ve been thinking about the headphones that eliminate noise. Usually, the sound maker works… like it works at Burning Man! But you know how things are when they get to you. Then nothing works.
      I had a lot of fun with the art work from the different locations. –Curt

  2. You sure have a knack for finding these sort of collections, don’t you, Curt?! Sort of “Northern Burning Man” festival? You have a lovely family and I’m glad you were with them to celebrate your birthday!

  3. Honestly, I thought ice-carving competitions were mostly one-off, but it appears that ice and snow sculptures (and parks and museums devoted to them) are an integral part of life in the north. It makes sense, of course. It’s just something we don’t think of, down here. In Texas, we do have ice houses, but that’s a rather different sort of thing than that log cabin — which just happened to tie the whale as my favorite.

    • One of the things that I found interesting Linda, was that several of the people involved in the ice carving, also competed in wood carving and sand sculpting contests. Both of those sound like Texas kind of things. (grin) Note, I also really liked the whale. He was big…
      Peggy and I start our two month road trip today. I have a tentative schedule and will get our east Texas info to you in a few days.
      —Curt

  4. Oh that is just the best story, well told.
    The photographs are stunning. I especially enjoy them with lighting. It must have been such a hoot to have the opportunity to photograph them, each one seemed to just outdo the preceding. Thank you.

  5. I’ve heard of ice sculptures but not snow sculptures. But it works! Terrific art. And my, you’ve seen a lot lately — from Burning Man to
    Aurora Ice Museum and beyond. Soooo glad I get to follow you around and see the world!

  6. Oh congratulations, Tony!! That little ice bar at the end almost slipped past me, since it looks so normal….almost. I noticed everyone wearing coats, then all the other parts finally hit me. How wonderful! You wouldn’t need any ice in your drinks, ha ha.

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