15 Impressive Winter Creations

A giant snow sculpture at the Harbin festival

Lintao Zhang / Getty Images

For those who live close to one of the poles, snow and ice sculptures are serious art forms. Whether it's a massive ice castle or a fully functional ice piano, the sky's the limit for what these sculptors can create.

There are contests and festivals around the world dedicated to this skill, from the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China, to the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Here's a selection of wintry creations that will give your backyard snowman a serious complex.

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Hokkaido ice dinos

Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Spectators visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan, gather around a massive snow sculpture depicting the giant reptiles of Earth's past, including a Brachiosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus.

About 300 snow and ice sculptures are on display during the festival, which is usually held in early February. As the largest winter tourism event of Japan, the Sapporo Snow Festival has attracted an annual average of about 2 million visitors over the last five years.

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Stranded polar bears

Photo: Benjamin Random [CC SA 2.0]/Flickr

Two polar bears made of snow are shown stranded atop an SUV in this snow sculpture created in February 2007 by Maia Iotzova for the British Columbia Snow Sculpture Championships in Vernon in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

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Snow men in Sapporo

Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images

A small child bundled in a red jacket plays among snow men made by children during the 60th annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan.

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World Ice Art Championships

Photo: Gary Whitton/Shutterstock.com

The ocean gets a frozen makeover in this ice sculpture, "Saltwater Safari," at the 2010 World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska.

More than 1,700 tons of ice are harvested for the annual March event, which includes incredibly intricate sculptures measuring up to 20 feet in height and weighing thousands of pounds each.

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Ice and claw

Photo: Gary Whitton/Shutterstock.com

Look out! There's a predatory ice cat on the prowl at the 2010 World Ice Art Championships.

In addition to being a serious competition for ice sculptors from around the world, the month-long event also features a playground made entirely of ice.

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'Aiming Eyes'

Photo: Gary Whitton/Shutterstock.com

This sculpture from the 2010 World Ice Art Championships features Ganesha, one of the most worshiped deities in Hinduism. He is, appropriately, the patron of the arts and sciences, two things you need when creating ice sculptures.

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Melting people

Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Ice sculptures shaped like miniature people melt in the sun on a stairway leading to the concert hall near the central square in Berlin.

Environmental group WWF (World Wide Fund) created the sculptures to call public attention to the dramatic consequences of the warming of the Arctic region.

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Psychedelic snow castle

Photo: kikujungboy/Shutterstock.com

A large ice castle lit up with multicolored lights is viewed through another ice sculpture at Zhaolin Park in Harbin, China.

Each year, the city holds the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in January. The festival features large ice sculptures, ice lanterns, ice slides, ice castles and even opportunities to take a frosty dip in the freezing Songhua River.

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Symphony of snow art

Photo: Giusparta/Shutterstock.com

Beethoven loomed large, literally, in this snow-made bust at the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China.

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Stairs slippery when ice and snow

Photo: Tracy Hunter [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

Even though they're beautiful, some ice sculptures may be a little intimidating to experience, like this one with long, though not particularly steep, staircases.

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Snowy ski mask

Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is a true winter wonderland.

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Ottawa's Winterlude

Photo: Vlad G/Shutterstock.com

An ice sculpture depicts a surfer riding frozen waves with dolphins at the Winterlude festival in Ottawa, Canada.

Winterlude is an annual snow festival that lasts three weekends in February and features the largest ice skating rink in the world, the continent's largest snow playground and, of course, a snow and ice sculpting competition.

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New icy friends

Photo: Erik Putrycz [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr

It's nice when you can meet your fantastical creations, as this ice sculpture of a young girl meeting a winged unicorn displays. Just at the edge of the frame, you can see an icy toy version of the creature behind the girl.

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A palace fit for an ice king

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Visitors explore the numerous ice and snow sculptures as the sun sets on an intricate ice castle featured at the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China.

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Ice block prison

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A person poses in a "prison" made entirely of ice blocks in Abashiri, Japan.