February in Ottawa means Winterlude, three weeks of winter fun and events ranging from skating on the canal, to ice sculpture competitions to playing in a large snow playground, the Snowflake Kingdom.  Last Thursday, we headed to Confederation Park to check out the belle of the ball…Winterlude’s ice sculptures. Each year, carvers from around the world strutt their frozen stuff creating beautiful sculptures.  I’ve always marvelled at the type of artist that could be satisfied creating something so temporary, on top of that, imagine how cold your fingers must get in the frigid winter weather doing such detailed work!  Perhaps  the fact that they are so temporary and can only be enjoyed for such a small amount of time lends to the magic of ice scultptures.   Imagine creating something of stunning beauty and then watching as its nose slowly melted away, and each perfectly carved toe bleeds into a plain old puddle.   This year unfortunately, by the time we made it out, some of the sculptures were in pretty rough shape.   I thought one sculpture was a headless horseman, only to learn that no, the poor rider was indeed supposed to have a head, but the warm winter weather had dealt him an early blow.

Love it or Leave it:I can’t say I loved it this year, but I can’t blame the scultptures as we should have made it out earlier. Besides the sculptures though, I didn’t feel like there was a festive atmosphere at Winterlude. Maybe it was because it was Thursday night, but come on Ottawa! Be a little more exciting!  Maybe it was the decapitated scultptures , but that combined with the lack of festival goers lent a depressive air to the whole park. I can’t say leave it though, because, really, these ice sculptures are pretty amazing, In the future  we’ll brave the crowds and try to see the sculptures as they are being chiseled, or just upon completion.

Frugality Index:  $ Free! It doesn’t cost you a penny to check out these very impressive (even when decapitated) works of art.

Family Fun: It doesn’t take very long to look at the sculptures and kids young and old can let their imaginations wander admiring these frozen figures.

Max enjoying Winterlude's Snow Scultpures

Hanging out in Confederation Park - Winterlude
Hanging out in Confederation Park – Winterlude

Hours: Rogers Crystal Garden at Confederation Park is open 9Am – 10 Pm throughout Winterlude which usually runs the first 3 weeks of February.

Five Favourite Facts: 

  • The Winterlude Pairs Carvers are given 30 hours to  create their masterpiece. The solo, one-block challenge, only two hours.
  • The Crystal Clear ice blocks used by the carvers is known as “Clinebell”. Each block measures  1 m x 50 cm x 25 cm (40 in. x 20 in. x 10 in.) and weighs 135 kg (297 lbs.)
  • The winner in the pairs competition took home $3200
  • Many culinary schools teach ice carving as part of food artistry programs.
  •  The fine details on a snow sculpture such as eyelids, and noses are normally the first to melt.
The Winning Entry Winterlude 2012
The Winning Entry Winterlude 2012

Bonus Round: Don’t want to stand in line for powdery, over-priced hot chocolate that doesn’t even taste like chocolate. Bring your own, Euro-Style.  Rob picked me up from work with a steaming to-go cup of some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  What’s the secret you ask? Its simple.


1. Mix 2 cups of milk with 35 grams of dark solid chocolate.
2. Heat until chocolate is melted and milk is warm. Top with whipped cream for something extra special.
3. Place in an insulated cup or thermos and enjoy while  wandering around Winterlude’s ice sculptures.