Nuuk Snow Festival – 2019

After an 11 year hiatus, the Nuuk Snow Festival was back in 2019. I was lucky enough to be in town to enjoy this snow sculpting showcase by both local and international teams.

It was -25 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. Perfect conditions for polar bears and to prevent snow from melting, but positively painful for a human venturing out into it. You have to be quite hardy (and slightly insane) if you are going to participate in a snow festival!

Sign for a competitor at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Signs announcing the sponsors, the team and what they would be making at the Nuuk Snow Festival

Day 1 – the sculpting begins

On the Thursday morning, several 3m x 3m x 3m blocks of hard packed snow stood at the ready at Sikuki – Nuuk Harbour to be sculpted into … well, we had to wait and see. Several teams got underway immediately, making sure to use as much of their 3-day sculpting window as possible. Armed with ladders, ice saws, shovels, picks and an arsenal of other tools, they had made various levels of progress by the end of day 1.

Montage of people working on their sculptures at the end of day 1 of the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Progress at the end of Day 1

Other blocks had yet to be touched (their teams delayed in Copenhagen due to bad weather), and there were even a few spares available for late registrations.

Lasse and I visited after work to see the progress and ran into Lasse’s friend David there. On the spur of the moment, the two of them decided to enter the festival. Team “Arctic Penguin” chose their block and brainstormed what they would sculpt as they dropped me home. Although they invited me to be part of it, I wasn’t sure my Australian fingers and toes would survive the bitterly cold temperatures, and decided to leave the Greenlanders to it.

Sign for Arctic Penguin's sculpture - Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Arctic Penguin’s sculpture sign. After throwing around a few different ideas, they decided on a “drop”

Day 2 – Silent Disco and Light Show

Saturday evening it was time to head back in and check on progress. The bonus was a “light show and silent disco” at the sculpture site and slightly less frigid temperatures!

It was amazing to see how much progress had been made and most of the sculptures were heading rapidly towards their final touches! Some teams were even working through it!

Artists working during the night on their sculptures at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
There were still some keen ones!

The “disco” was more like “relaxation music” (at least while I was there, apparently it picked up a bit later), so I decided to just wander through and admire the sculptures without accompaniment.

Montage of the different sculptures lit up at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland

It was a pretty good turnout with people coming and going throughout the evening.

The "igloo" where you picked up your headphones for the silent disco at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
This “igloo” was where you picked up your headphones for the silent disco

Day 3 – Before and after at the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival

It was tools down at 11am the next morning, so I did one last visit around midday to see the final products. They had each started out as a solid 3m x 3m x 3m cube of snow

Untouched block of compacted snow - the starting point for all artists at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Untouched block of compacted snow – the starting point for all artists

But what they had been transformed into was incredible!

Montage of finished sculptures at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Some of the final sculptures from the festival

There was one interactive sculpture that the kids were having a ball playing on

Kids playing on an interactive sculpture at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
This was fun – but I watched several kids get clobbered by others coming down the slide 🙂

and I thought team “Arctic Penguin” did an amazing job on the perfect symmetry of their “Drop”.

The finished "drop" by Arctic Penguin at the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
A perfect drop! Well done guys!

Winners of the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival

In the end, Team Qinngorput won the non-figurative category with their Northern Lights sculpture “Light in Depth”

Winner of figurative category of the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland

and Team Sisamaqqat the figurative category with “Transformation” (the walrus, seal, bear intermixed figures). This is perhaps not surprising when you look at the day-to-day carving work by one of the team members Kim Kleist-Eriksen.

Winner of the non-figurative category of the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Just wow!

But all of the sculptures were incredible, including the one done by the volunteers for the festival (which included several of my friends) – even though they somehow managed to leave Canada off their world map…

Embrace the world sculpture at the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Embrace the world!

Recommendation

The Nuuk Snow Festival is a very cool idea (literally and figuratively) and I really hope they run it again next year. If they do (and if I’m in town), I may even brave the cold (Lasse assures me that it is actually quite hot work carving the snow) and enter next time! Better start thinking about what I might be able to carve!

Discover more about Greenland

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk provides a complete list of festivals that take place throughout the year in Greenland’s capital. It also has loads of practical information on how to get to Nuuk, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do once you arrive.

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

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