Alaska State Championship Beard and Moustache Contest, Anchorage Alaska, Autonomous Snowplow Competition, Beer Dabbler festival, bonfires, cabin fever, canoeing excursions, Caribou mulled wine, Carnaval de Quebec, Fur Rendezvous, Hanford Mills Museum, Hanford Mills New York, Harbin China, Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, horse-drawn sleighs, hot chocolate, ice biking, ice cities, Ice Harvest Festival, ice skating, ice slide, King Boreas, leaf-blower hockey, Matthew Kronsberg, night parades, outhouse races, Quebec City Canada, reindeer races, Rondy, Running of the Reindeer, Saint Paul Minnesota, Saint Paul Winter Carnival, snowshoe softball, Songhua River China, soup buffets, Wall Street Journal, winter festivals, yukigassen
Wall Street Journal
Sites & Sightings
Snow Balls: Five Winter Festivals Worth the Trip
With ice cities, reindeer races and night parades, these cold-weather events can cure you of cabin fever
Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival CORBIS
Updated Dec. 12, 2014 8:33 p.m. ET
THE CURE FOR winter’s chill is often a crackling fire or a steaming mug of hot chocolate. The cure for cabin fever is more elusive. Winter festivals exist not just to celebrate the season, but also to provide an excuse for an outing. The best fests seem to understand that it takes more than a band and some beer to make a trip worthwhile; many reward visitors with grand spectacles and oddball events. Here, a few events that guarantee a cool, cold time.
A Capital of Cold in China The city of Harbin is closer to the Russian and Mongolian borders than it is to Beijing—and for two months a year, it turns that frosty location to its advantage. For the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, a frozen city covering 8 million square feet is built from snow as well as ice pulled from the Songhua River. (The centerpieces of this year’s festival will be a 160-foot-tall “fairy tower” made of ice and steel, and a frozen replica of Big Ben.) Everything is lit from within in rainbow hues, so this festival is best visited after dark. And there’s more to do than just gawk: This year’s activity district will include ice skating, ice biking and an eight-sided ice slide. But only the bravest visitors will want to join locals swimming in the frigid Songhua. Jan. 5 to Feb. 25, 2015, iceharbin.com
Ice Dream in New York
Ice Harvest Festival KEVIN Q GRAY
In February, time isn’t the only thing frozen at the Hanford Mills Museum in upstate New York. Before refrigeration, ice was as important to rural life as any other crop; the museum honors that past with its annual Ice Harvest Festival. Attendees can strap on ice cleats and venture onto the frozen mill pond to watch—or help—as 6 to 8 tons of ice is removed in huge blocks, using antique tools. The ice is packed away in an icehouse until it is used to make ice cream for Independence Day. The winter event is not without its own treats: Visitors can warm themselves by a bonfire, hit the soup buffet or ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. Feb. 7, 2015, hanfordmills.org
A Big Chill in Canada
Carnaval de Québec CARNAVAL DE QUÉBEC
Billed as the largest winter carnival in the world, with more than half a million visitors, Carnaval de Québec sprawls from Quebec City’s Plains of Abraham park onto the St. Lawrence River and the snow-covered city streets. Between the opening ceremony (at a palace built from 300 tons of ice) and the closing fireworks, there are three weeks of night parades, canoeing excursions on the icy river and mugs of Caribou, a Quebecois specialty of maple-sweetened mulled wine. Jan. 30 to Feb. 15, 2015, carnaval.qc.ca
Snow Daze in Alaska
Fur Rendezvous CORBIS
Pamplona, Spain, may have the Running of the Bulls, but Anchorage does that town one better with the Running of the Reindeer. That’s just one of the many events in the Fur Rendezvous (“The Rondy”), where Alaskans get to let out a little of the crazy that’s bound to build up over the long winter. Athletic fun ranges from leaf-blower hockey and snowshoe softball to yukigassen, a Japanese team sport that combines Capture the Flag with a snowball fight. At the Miners and Trappers Ball, the winner of the Alaska State Championship Beard and Moustache Contest is awarded the coveted title “Mr. Fur Face.” Come for the carnival, the parades and the native art market; stay for the outhouse races. Feb. 27 to March 8, furrondy.net
Frozen Family Fun in Minnesota
Saint Paul Winter Carnival CHRISTINE WISCH
You don’t need to understand the Byzantine, made-up mythology surrounding the Saint Paul Winter Carnival to know it’s the premiere event on the Twin Cities’ cold-weather calendar. The struggle for power between Boreas (King of the Winds) and the Fire King informs many events—the closing torchlight parade culminates in the overthrow of King Boreas on the steps of the James J. Hill Library. In the 10 days before that, families throng the Winter Wonderland in Rice Park and cheer on their favorite ‘bots in the Autonomous Snowplow Competition; others participate in a countywide treasure hunt, seeking a gold medallion that comes with a $10,000 prize. The outdoor Beer Dabbler festival, with more than 150 breweries represented, draws masses to the tundra of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Jan. 22 to Feb. 1, 2015, wintercarnival.com
Hearts saturated with kind—
ness, a blindness of sorts, a for—
lorn affair, not able to touch the others’ core.
This matter is nothing we did.
I still swear I can see in you what is hid—
en, forbidden, and any door—
way leads, sealed, evermore.
On this side the winter holidays.
Through to the other, the amaz—
ing, quite blazing, path to sight—
ly skies, spring liquids, warmth of light.
S.A. Bort / 9 December 2014
image: Maia Spall
As did the hairs in my nose.
It must sound ungrateful
To wish to see a summer seagull.
I have a good roof over my head,
And with each day, I’m satisfactorily fed.
But it’s unlike a man to complain
And to magnify his pain.
I’ve chosen to live where the winter bites,
Where the silence of falling snow excites.
The weather marks the passing seasons
As convent cemeteries mark black-robed nuns.
And spring will surely arrive
For those given enough months of life.
S.A. Bort / 3 December 2014
Falling, striking, transforming—
Plump in early spring.
Sunlight cuts through ice,
Thaws like blood into water—
Easter morn arrives.
Pressurized clouds burst.
Rain falls, washes the gutters—
A starved earth suckles.
Jade grass, wildflowers,
Sapphire, lapis lazuli—
Iron skies subside.
Time won’t slow down,
Time is time, ever constant—
Time is all, is now.
Don’t they know to look away—
They flaunt their brightness.
Rushing pheromones prevail—
Love perfumes the air.
Daylight lingers on,
As long as a day can last—
Till turning its back.
Bared skin seeks the light.
Sun warms, burns fragile body—
The grass browns and dries
Yet carries running children—
Facing but one way.
Fill each night with grand wishes—
Money, power, food.
Scrounging through trash cans,
Bears stuff for hibernation—
Inspiring warm fashion coats—
Clothing demands cash.
Bare trees whip about,
Lashing lamely at the sky—
A bleak as hell time,
Thanksgiving serves a great feast—
Heads bow, prayers rise.
Evergreen trees trimmed,
Feasts grace fine linen tables—
Christmas closes shops.
The old year expires,
Heralding snowy Times Square—
Down to a second.
S.A. Bort / 22 April 2014
all photos by S.A. Bort