Colder-than-usual temperatures this month are good news for Ice Alaska in Fairbanks. The group has announced that it will keep the George Horner Ice Park open for an additional week, until April 1. The display of artwork hewn from ice, occupying several acres, was originally scheduled to close on Sunday.
The event has previously gone into April three or four times in its 22-year history and had to be closed early once due to exceptionally warm weather, according to Ice Alaska chairman Dick Brickley.
"But this year, the weather's just been fabulous," Brickley said. "The single-block carvings in the trees will be there until June!"
The single-block pieces are shielded from daylight by a spruce forest. The larger, multi-block sculptures are more exposed to the deteriorating effects of the sun.
The park, recently relocated to a former gravel yard on Noyes Slough, is home of the BP World Ice Art Championships, featuring spectacular, enormous ice carvings made from the exceptionally clear "Blue Diamond" ice cut from nearby ponds. Teams of artists from around the world vie in the competition, which began in February.
The "normal" low temperature in Fairbanks in March is in the single digits below zero or just above. As of March 22 this year, there had been 15 days in the month when temperatures dropped to minus 10 or colder. Over the same period, there have been four days when the thermometer reached 20 degrees; in a normal March, 18 such days would have reached that spring-like balminess by this time.
So far in March, averaged lows have exceeded normal lows by about 9 degrees and highs have fallen short of normal highs by more than 11 degrees.
All of which works in favor of keeping the gigantic ice sculptures looking like new.
"I was taking photos of the multi-block sculptures this morning and they look just perfect," said Ice Alaska's media man, Don Callahan.
The Ice Park is located at the west end of Phillips Field Road. Access is off Peger Road by taking either the exit from Airport Way or the Johansen Expressway. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through April 1. One-day admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6-12 and free for children under 6. Admission includes reentry on the same day. Season passes are $25.
Brickley said that Ice Alaska is considering opening the park to summer visitors, with photos so that tourists can see what the ice art looked like.
Reach Mike Dunham at email@example.com or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM
Anchorage Daily News