Having lived in Alaska 30, years, last year was the first time I ventured to Fairbanks for this event. Long before setting foot in the park, I was thrilled to see ice carvings of angels, geese, bears and other visions, that local businesses commissioned on street corners around the city.
When I got to the park, I can't even begin to describe the 30-foot long tiger, or the gigantic mammoth, which were only two of the two hundred breathtaking sculptures at the Ice Classics.
The ice is cut from the nearby Chena River in 4 x 4 foot blocks. In the multi-block competition, teams freeze blocks together to create even larger masterpieces.
Last year, I came the day before the lighting of the big block competition, and was able to watch the carvers work on their masterpieces, then returned the following evening to see them lit under beautiful colored lights making them even more breathtaking.
The Ice Classics has a web site, so you can view not only last years entries, but winners from the past few years. Once you click on their site you'll agree, this is something every Alaskan should see at least once.
Information from: Fairbanks Ice Classics web site http://www.icealaska.com/
The Ice Classics coincides with other art events and local celebrations, including but not limited to the North Pole Winter Festival March 5&6; Dog Days March 6&7 - Chena Lakes Recreation Area; Festival of Native Arts March 3 -5 UAF Wood Center; Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Annual Exhibit: Up With Art March 4 - 26; Jr. North American Championship Sled Dog Race March 4,4-6; Chatanika Days March 12-13 - Winter festival with outhouse races and snow machine tug-of-war in the historic gold mining town of Chatanika, 30 miles north. See the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site for more events and information. For travel information check their links or contact them direct: http://www.explorefairbanks.com/
And no trip to Fairbanks would be complete without a trip to the Chena Hot Springs and the world famous Aurora Ice Museum/Hotel. http://www.chenahotsprings.com/icehotel.html
Last year I toured the springs and the hotel, where I sat down at the frozen bar and drank a martini out of a frozen chalice on my frozen bar stool as I chatted with owner Bernie Karl who has rebuilt the ice hotel once again. This time the hotel was built inside a refrigerated building so it will remain open year-round. Guests may make reservations to sleep in one of the six available bedrooms. (You also receive a warm room in the Hot Spring's hotel.) Bernie informed me that those who rented the rooms last year, actually stayed the night. Guests sleep on a bed of ice, but they have lots of furs and warm blankets to keep them warm.
No trip to Fairbanks would be complete without viewing the Northern Lights. At your request, hotels will wake you in the middle of the night to view the Lights should they not be visible before you retire.
Bundle up in multiple layers. Take your camera, take an extra battery and recharge your camera often, as the cold weather will drain them. Keep your camera tucked inside your coat and your batteries will last longer.
Alice Albrecht is a local writer and artist.Her work can be viewed at http://home.gci.net/~allwrite/