2023 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva winner Team North Dakota. WCCN photo by Dan Plutchak
2023 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva winner Team North Dakota. WCCN photo by Dan Plutchak

News release

LAKE GENEVA – No matter the unpredictability of snowfall totals from Mother Nature, the annual U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship hosted as part of Winterfest in Lake Geneva is always a go, with the 2024 event set for Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2024.

This is the 29th year for the competition in Lake Geneva, the only national snow sculpting championship in the U.S. Lake Geneva is located in southern Wisconsin, southwest of Milwaukee near the Illinois border.

It’s an epic rivalry that melds artistry, fortitude, and just plain fun as 15 state champion teams from coast to coast each create a larger-than-life snow sculpture for judging.

The sculptures will fill the Geneva Lake shoreline at both Riviera Plaza and Flat Iron Park.

Winterfest is free.

While the snow sculpting competition is the featured attraction, visitors will also want to check out the downtown ice sculpture walk, bonfires on the beach, and live entertainment during the run of the event. For the full schedule and a sneak peek at renderings of the planned snow sculptures, log on to www.visitlakegeneva.com/winterfest.

2024 Designs Speak to AI, the Environment, Women Firsts

Returning for the 2024 snow sculpting competition is the reigning champion team from 2023, Team North Dakota.

Not only did the team take home 1st place in the juried competition, they also nabbed the top award in the People’s Choice division.

This year, their entry, called “Some Things in Life Deserve a Good Long Look,” is a conceptual, meditative piece that reminds viewers to slow down and recognize beauty in the moment, while also serving as a metaphor for not missing out on things in life.

The main character in the sculpture is a visual interpretation of that advice but appears to have been sitting for perhaps too long, as his form grows roots and merges into the landscape around him.

The second place team for 2023, AK Department of Snow out of Alaska, is making the cross-country trek back to Wisconsin to compete for 2024 glory with a design they are calling “Ocean of Intelligence.”

The design begs the question, can true intelligence be artificial, suggesting robots are powerless to ignite the true spark that is human creativity.

Wisconsin’s Sculptora Borealis team, which grabbed third place honors at last year’s event, has submitted its rendering for its 2024 entry and it’s called “Trust Me,” which addresses whether artificial intelligence can be trusted or not.

Teams from snowy states including Vermont, New York, Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado will round out the competition.

The team from Maine, which calls itself The Chickadees – they’re an all-female team – has planned a sculpture that pays homage to Artemis, the goddess of the moon and the name of the next NASA moon mission which will include the first woman on the moon and the first person of color.

The Iowa Driftless Snow Sculptors team has sketched out a sculpture called “Survival” featuring the sturdy sturgeon, which has been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth, in pondering whether this ancient fish species can adapt to environmental changes for which humans are responsible.

Kids will surely be drawn to the lighthearted “Yeti Spaghetti” sculpture from Team Michigan and the cute “Dragon” sculpture from the Colorado Snice Carvings team.

The Ins and Outs of the Snow Sculpting Competition

The snow sculpting competition begins at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024 and continues through 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024.

The sculptures remain on display until they melt.

Here are more behind-the-scenes facts on this national competition:

The snow is delivered in truckloads, courtesy of Grand Geneva Resort and the snow-making machines at their ski hill. A crew of Winter Fun “stompers” then packs the snow into rectangular wooden forms that stand 8 feet by 8 feet by 10 feet tall, with the forms peeled away, leaving massive snow blocks for teams to start carving.

The ideal temperature for snow carving is between 20 and 25 degrees.

While each team is made up of three sculptors, it’s fair to say that weather is the “fourth teammate” in this competition. That said, the competition goes on regardless of temperature swings with the sculptors often working well into the night to complete their designs.

The tools used run the gamut from conventional to more innovative homemade tools. No power tools are allowed.

The sculptures may only include snow and nothing else, even for the most gravity-defying designs.
The designs often start as hand-drawn renderings and small clay sculptures to guide the sculptors.

“Winter Realms” Is Another Snowy Destination to Consider

The creators of the award-winning frozen attraction Ice Castles are creating a new, more weather-resistant winter experience in Lake Geneva for 2024 after unseasonably warm conditions in 2023 saw the attraction close early.

The reimagined Ice Castles, now called “Winter Realms,” will continue to be hosted at Geneva National Resort & Club.

Visitors will thrill to the iconic towers, caverns, igloos, ice thrones, and crawl spaces from the creators of Ice Castles, with added features to include light shows, ice and snow sculptures, horse-drawn wagon rides, ice volcanoes, a tubing hill, ice slides, and a Polar Pub ice bar.

Lake Geneva is one of just two sites in the country for Winter Realms. Projected opening timeline for Winter Realms is late January, weather permitting of course. Ticket information can be found at https://www.winterrealms.com/winter-realms-lake-geneva/.

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By staff