LAKE GENEVA – Tens of thousands of visitors are expected in Lake Geneva this week for the city’s 2023 Winterfest celebration.
The 2023 event, which once again serves as host for the U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship, is set for Feb. 1-5, 2023 with much of the excitement centered around the Riviera Plaza and Flat Iron Park along the Geneva Lake shoreline.
The event is free and there is even free weekend shuttle bus service. For all the frosty details, log on to www.visitlakegeneva.com/winterfest.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS YEAR
The centerpiece of this event is the snow sculpting competition, where 15 teams representing states from coast to coast carve into massive blocks of snow starting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday before putting down tools at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with some of the most gravity-defying, ephemeral works of art you’ll see anywhere in the world taking shape over those 74 hours, according to a news release.
Last year’s national champs, the Sculptora Borealis team from Wisconsin, returns to defend their title.
They’ll face challenges from a field of teams hailing from Alaska, Illinois, Colorado, North Dakota, Vermont, New York, Iowa, Illinois, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa.
The winning team, selected by the sculptors themselves, will be announced Saturday at a 3 p.m. at a public awards ceremony in the Riviera Ballroom. Visitors can also vote for the People’s Choice award.
The sculptures remain on display until they melt. https://www.visitlakegeneva.com/winterfest/teams/
Four teams keep it all in the family – there are the Lechtenbergs, son Robert and father Michael, on the Wisconsin 1 Sculptora Borealis team; father and daughter duo Danica Rogers and Mark Rogers of the Illinois 2 team; cousins John Woodard and Glenn Woodard of Team New Hampshire; and sisters Heather Friedli and Juliana Welter of Minnesota 1
Minnesota’s Team 1, Team Kwe, is the only all-indigenous snow sculpting team, with team members honoring their Anishinaabe heritage with their entry this year, “Otter Water Protector.” They are also the only all-women team in the competition and their design also speaks to their tradition of Anishinaabe women being keepers and protectors of the water.
Could the state with the highest annual snowfall total – Vermont – have a practice advantage? Only time will tell.
The team to travel the farthest, Alaska, will surely get a warm welcome in Wisconsin.
Team Michigan qualified for this championship for the first time. The captain, Adam Dennison, is known to carve snow and sand, he hosts a pumpkin-carving contest, and he dabbles in chainsaw carving too.
In past years, the form for the packed snow was a cylinder. This year it’s a rectangular cuboid. Why the change? Turns out the sculptors prefer the hard angles of a square form versus a cylinder so when it came time to replace the old forms, the switch was made.
Themes for the snow sculpture designs revolve around resilience, refuge, the environment, and whimsy.
The city’s downtown district gets its own icy makeover with hand-crafted ice sculptures displayed in front of more than 30 businesses.
Bonfires on the Beach With a nod to helping visitors warm up to the idea that a snowy outdoor event is just what they need in February, bonfires on the Riviera Beach will be set ablaze Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Hot cocoa and s’mores kits will be available for purchase.
Warm Up with Comfort Food
Visitors to Winterfest will find plenty to like in the way of comfort food, with hot beverages and favorite fest foods to be served inside the Riviera building and outside at food trucks.
Children’s Snow Sculpture Garden
Thursday and Friday afternoons at Flat Iron Park, students from four area grade schools will try their hand at creating snow sculptures with mentoring by professional sculptors; their creations will remain on display through the weekend.
Businesses Embracing the Chill
The Baker House will have an Ice Bar set up on their front lawn with views to the lake, while Maxwell Mansion is going all out with its Freaky Tiki Winterfest activities on Sunday to include snow painting, hot chocolate bombs, and a tiki igloo with fun, family activities.
TWO MORE ICY ATTRACTIONS HAPPENING THE SAME WEEKEND
Ice Castles 2023: This frozen attraction is made of hundreds of thousands of hand-placed icicles, with ice artists creating LED-lit sculptures, tunnels, slides, and fountains. Tickets go quickly. Start date is weather dependent but typically it’s sometime in January. The Wisconsin location is one of just five in the U.S. Hosted at Geneva National Resort, 1221 Geneva National Avenue South.
Winter Carnival at Grand Geneva Resort, Feb. 4: Head to The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort for their annual winter carnival celebration on Saturday. Fill your visit with skiing, snowboarding, human bowling on the sledding hill, and candy scrambles, with the grand finale a torchlight parade and fireworks celebration that evening. www.grandgeneva.com/event-calendar/winter-carnival-2022-01-05/2-4-2023
THE ART OF SNOW SCULPTING
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.
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.