The winners of this year's Fur Rendezvous Alaska State Snow Sculpting Championships were announced Sunday on a sparkling cold and bright day at Anchorage's Ship Creek. Among the winners were some veteran snow sculptors as well as newcomers. Here are some of the judges' top picks:
Veteran team AK Awesome took first place for their delicate, detailed sculpture of what the group said is a "guardian angel." The honor comes with a trip to the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championships in Minnesota.
The three-person team first came up with the guardian angel concept years ago.
"Sometimes we'll shelve one for later on. We finally decided to do this one," said team member Jesse Mellor.
"It's about a ten foot tall man with wings," said Wade Pier. "It's a huge angel, with armor and stuff."
In other years, they've entered — and won — with mythical themes like a Minotaur and phoenix. One year they constructed a memorable "salmon tornado."
The guardian angel took about 150 man hours to create, said Mellor. Snow conditions were ideal this year, with cool, clear weather, he said.
First place winner Jesse Mellor's wife, daughter and brother formed a team they called "Mars & The Snow Slayers," competing for the first time in the general three-person group category — and won second place.
The design — a wolf in a hollowed-out tree trunk, with a star behind it — came from a drawing by 14-year-old Marleigh Mellor.
Her uncle Joshua Mellow flew up from Florida to work on the team. The hollowed out trunk was a painstaking labor, and there were some worries that lots of direct sunlight might threaten the structure, said Dannielle Mellor. But everything turned out even better than expected, she said.
The team known as Alaska Department of Snow team was on hand when awards were announced but left soon after. Many of the groups work through the night and go home to rest, said Kevin Young of Fur Rendezvous.
The team was freshly back from competing at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Wisconsin, where they placed second, according to member Paul Hanis. Their sculpture depicted a textured, detailed owl striking at its rabbit prey.
Another standout: A group of Anchorage Waldorf School students build this Mount Rushmore-esque sculpture featuring the faces of Martin Luther King Jr., the late Athabascan elder and activist Katie John, Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi.
The sculpture placed first in the schools division.
* Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Alaska Department of Snow team was not on hand to accept their third place award. The team accepted the award in person.