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Hundreds flock to frozen lake near Ely to view unique sculptures.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (Above: "The Prospector"; Below: "Shark Bait")
In Nevada, art has been known to take many—often peculiar—forms. Maybe the most unusual are the sculptures at the annual White Pine Fire and Ice Show near Ely. In 2003, an Ely resident built a large trout out of snow on the frozen surface of the popular ice-fishing destination, Cave Lake, 15 miles south of Ely. The fish drew so many curious visitors that it gave Cave Lake State Park Supervisor Steve Gray and other park employees an idea. Two years later the snow-sculpting competition was born. They’ve since added fireworks to give further incentive for locals and tourists to check out the festivities.
Dedicated competitors, fortified with layer upon layer of polar fleece, down, and wool, will brave the sub-freezing temperatures January 17-18 to let their imaginations—and a few snowballs—soar. This year’s festival saw such creative designs as a miner inspecting a gold nugget, “The Prospector,” a snow man swimming away from approaching shark fins, “Shark Bait,” and a fairy tale bear sleeping in a sleigh bed, “Bear in Mind It’s Sleepy Time a.k.a. The Hibernator,” which took first, second, and third places respectively. Perhaps what makes the sculptures of Fire and Ice so incredible is that their creators know their work—masterpieces that require painstaking hours of toil—will, like the frozen canvas they sit upon, disappear. Wind, snow, climbing mercury, even the sculptures’ own weight, means many of them won’t last a week.
Spectators aren’t forgotten. The 2008 festival, which was named to the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events in North America list, included a two-lane snow bowling alley, one-hole tennis ball golf course, music, and food prepared and sold by the area’s only microbrewery, White Pine Brewing Company. The 2009 festival is also on the ABA’s top-100 list.
When night falls on the final day—about 6 p.m.—the fireworks begin. As pyrotechnics are customarily a summer delight, few people have experienced them in winter. The cold, dry air makes the colors more vibrant than summer displays. The “pops,” “booms,” and “sizzles” from the fireworks bounce off the canyon walls and the frozen lake in a cacophony of echoes, and the reflections on the snow and ice lend a surreal glow to the production. It’s enough to make you forget that you can barely feel your hands and feet.
White Pine Fire and Ice Show
Jan. 17-18, 2009
Cave Lake State Park
From U.S. 93 (also 50 and 6) in Ely, head south about eight miles to State Route 486 (Steptoe Creek Road) and turn left. Continue for seven miles and turn right into Lake View Campground.
WORTH A CLICK
Watch videos and read Charlie Johnston’s blog about the 2008 White Pine Fire and Ice show at blog.travelnevada.com.