From January 30 to February 15, Quebec City will turn into a festive winter wonderland for the Carnaval de Québec (a.k.a. Quebec Winter Carnival). This city-wide event has taken place every year since 1955, with unofficial versions going all the way back to 1894. More than a million people attend the festival each year, making it the largest winter carnival in the world.
The Winter Carnival includes a range of activities—outdoor dance parties, banquets, winter sports, a snowman mascot named Bonhomme—but perhaps the real highlight is the snow sculptures.
Snow sculpting is an age-old tradition in Quebec, and the art has long been a part of winter festivities. For decades it was more of an informal activity (in the 1950s, amateurs and children joined professionals in building snow monuments in front of homes or at a designated site).
In 1973, the city held its first official International Snow Sculpture Competition. This is when the snow sculpting got serious. The competition grew a great deal over the following decades, drawing artists from all over the globe, and today it’s considered one of the world’s most prestigious snow sculpting contests.
Keep in mind, we aren’t talking about your typical snowman in the front yard here. The masterpieces of the International Snow Sculpture Competition look like this:
And even this:
As you might expect, crafting this kind of mind-blowing snow art is a very special skill, and it’s not easy to do. Not only do you have to fight the elements (cold, wind, icy conditions), you also have to know deep down that your masterpiece will be melting out of existence in the near future. Snow sculpting is a classic live-in-the-moment artistic endeavor.
For the spectators at the Carnival, watching the artists hammer away at giant blocks of snow and ice to create such intricate and poignant sculptures is a magical experience. Throw in some music, winter snacks, and a hockey game or two, and you can understand why the Quebec Winter Carnival is considered the best in the world.
Travelers lucky enough to be on student trips to Quebec this time of year should keep an eye out for some festive winter fun.
(photos by Jamie McCaffery via flickr)