International ice sculpting competition offers outlet to celebrate winter in Winnipeg

Artists from around the world are in Winnipeg for the city’s first ever international ice carving competition.

'We need to celebrate the winter. We need to take what we have and make the most of it,' organizer says

A man stands in front of an ice sculpture of an archer.
Winnipegger Bradley Froehlich stands in front of a sculpture of an archer that he co-created with teammate Victor Dagatan of Orlando, Fla., to win the competition. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Artists from around the world are in Winnipeg for the city's first ever international ice carving competition.

The Winterscape International Ice Carving Competition took place at the Upper Fort Garry Park over the weekend, where teams from Canada, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Mexico and the Philippines were busy sculpting.

"It's something that you never see in person around here, to this scale anyway," Corby Pearce, an organizer of the event, told CBC.

He's been taking part in ice sculpting competitions across the globe for 25 years, he said, and spent the last five dreaming of bringing an international competition to Winnipeg.

He wants to make the competition an annual fixture in the city.

"We need this. We need to celebrate the winter. We need to take what we have and make the most of it. This is ice from our river," he said.

An ice sculpture is pictured of a snake and phoenix in battle.
An ice carving of a phoenix and a snake in the middle of battle was created by two sculptors from the Netherlands. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Twenty-five blocks of ice that initially weighed 1,500 pounds each were carved at the park over the weekend.

"It's always impressive. I've been working and competing with these guys and I'm still impressed every time I see it."

Arts has always been a part of Pearce's life, and his hope is to bring more younger students to learn how to create their own sculptures.

"The fun thing about art is, even from the students, you're learning from them too," he said.

Victor Dagatan and Bradley Froehlich were two carvers competing in the event over the weekend. They crafted the figure of an archer, which took home top honours in the competition.

Dagatan, who is Filipino and lives in Orlando, Fla., said he lost his templates in the chilly wind on Friday and had to complete his carving freehand.

"It's quite a preparation because you need to sharpen all your tools as well."

He said ice carving is an outlet for him.

"Just like a kid, you need to go and play."

Froehlich, a Winnipegger, said he's the opposite of a snowbird.

"Some people go to Mexico — we look for cold weather."

Taking advantage of natural landscape

Andrew, Joseph and Leif Cyr were three spectators at the event. The grandfather, father and son were impressed by the carvings.

Leif said it was his first time seeing ice carvings, calling them "cool." His grandfather Joseph said he was amazed by the carvers' workmanship, which showcases "how much creativity there is throughout the world."

Andrew said he was impressed to see international carvers sculpting art from Winnipeg ice.

"It's really taking advantage of our natural landscape here in a creative way."

With files from Jim Agapito