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Maybe you think it’s early to start thinking snow – while some plan escapes from the cold, skiiers and snowboarders look forward to their season.  If you’ve always thought of winter as something to escape, perhaps this year you’ll find something to embrace in these awesome festivals we’ve found.  It’s not just about skiing and snowboarding either – ice and snow sculptures call artists to a new medium, while dog sledding, concerts, and snow mazes can be enjoyed by all kinds.  Here’s our list of 10 crazy snow festivals coming up in late 2012 and early 2013.

1. Snowbombing Mayrhofen, Austria April 1 -6, 2013

As the slogan goes, this event is “mythical, musical and without equal.”  This huge event is not for the casual visitor, but there are some pretty incredible packages for sale.  You must book your lodging specifically through Snowbombing, but when you do this, all the events (killer music, contests, etc) are included for free!  If you want to go, check ahead and get deals like “Locals-only” passes, or “Snowbombing Road Trip.”  Check here to book your package.

Snowbombing, Austria -  Some rights reserved by Ash Lourey

Snowbombing, Austria – Some rights reserved by Ash Lourey

2. Billabong Air&Style Innsbruck, Austria Jan 31 – Feb 2, 2013

Air&Style, sponsored by Billabong, started out as a sort of underground contest in Innsbruck.  With the participation of some of the best snowboarders in the world, it developed into one of the most influential snowboard events today.  This year brings 24 or the sickest riders from around the world to compete for a prize of $100,000. Riders can only qualify by TTR ranking, wild card or invitation.

3. Alaska Ice Festival Fairbanks, Alaska Feb 26- Mar 24, 2013

This event, put on in Fairbanks, Alaska, by Ice Alaska,  is now a month-long attraction involving over 70 teams from all over the world coming to compete in the BP World Ice Art Championships.  This competition involves over 100 artists and 50,000 visitors from Alaska and all over the world.

Inside the Snow Maze -  Some rights reserved by Cool breeze pics

Inside the Snow Maze – Some rights reserved by Cool breeze pics

4. International Snow Sculpture Championships Breckenridge, Colorado Jan 13 – Feb 2, 2013

Be sure to dress warmly for this event – Breckenridge is one of the snowiest towns in the US, making it the perfect place for a snow sculpture championship!  Breckenridge has free public transportation during this event, making it easy to find your way around.  You can even participate in the voting, but you must get their during sculpting week, which ends Jan 26th.  Don’t miss the spectacular Ice Village, located at the Riverwalk Center!

5. Perm International Snow, Ice and Fire Festival Perm, Russia Feb 2013

This huge festival is held annually in Perm, Russia.  For almost 20 years, the Perm International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival has been one of the most adored highlights of tourism in Russia. Artists come from France, Mexico, Switzerland, Germany and America (in fact, this festival is an important peace-keeping bond between the two countries) to enter into the snow and ice-sculpting competitions.

6. Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival Harbin, China Jan 5 – end of Feb, 2013

Harbin - Some rights reserved by Irish Typepad

Harbin Festival, China – Some rights reserved by Irish Typepad

The incredible icy art at Harbin is unparallelled, even if only due to it’s incredible size.  Some say it is the world’s best winter festival, even though you may be battling temperatures as low as -22 degrees F!  I recommend booking a package that includes half a tour of the festival, and half visiting some saunas and bath houses! (If you’re brave -crazy – you might try winter swimming, which a lot of locals do. Brrrr!)

7. Sapporo Snow Festival Sapporo, Japan Feb 5 – 11, 2013

The Sapporo Snow Festival brings about two million people to Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island.  For these seven days, hundreds of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures fill Odori Park, and the main street in the Susukino neighborhood.  These sculptures turn Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow.

8. Quebec Winter Carneval Old Québec, Canada Feb 1 – 17, 2013

Held in the heart of the Old City Quebec, Winter Carneval lends a festive atmosphere to this northern gem of a city.  If you want to visit, it’s worht it to get the “The Bonhomme Effigy.”  This will be your pass for the full 17 days of festivities, and for only $12 (CAN), you’ll have access to over 300 activities and shows !  The most popular events are the sleigh race, La Dégelée – The Hottest Winter Party, and the RAFT Snow Rafting Race.

9. Ischgl Opening Party Ischgl, Austria Tentative date Nov 27, 2012

Ischgl is the place to be if you visit Austria in the winter, opening day is an incredible time to be in the mountains.  The energy is high at the start of the season, where hardcore skiiers and snowboarders come for music and apre ski parties (and of course, getting their first runs on the slopes for the season!)

10. Belalp Hexe Valais, Switzerland Jan 12-19, 2013

If quirky culture is more your style, you might be inclined to visit Switzerland in mid-January for the Belalp Hexe.  The origin of this festival is linked to an old witch’s tale, and so hundreds of skiiers join the party in costume to watch the Witches’ Descent race. Though the costumes are part of the draw to this event, the skiing is pretty serious.   The Witches’ Descent is a 7.5-mile race down 5,905 feet of challenging terrain. It is actually one of the top races in Switzerland’s amateur downhill circuit. The party goes late into the eve, the last two night’s known as Witches’ Nights are some of the biggest apres ski events in Europe.

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One Comment

  1. Nomadic SamuelNo Gravatar
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    There certainly are some incredible looking snow festivals. Out of all of them I’d most like to check out Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. I’ve had a friend who went there and the photos were just stunning.

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