FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Warmer than usual temperatures arrived at the World Ice Art Championships as the multi-block competition began this week, forcing some sculptors to wait for night's colder temperatures.
On the flip side, organizers say the balmier weather could be bringing more people to the event, considered among the top echelon of ice carving contests.
Temperatures rose above freezing as multi-block carvers were to start their work Monday under a bright sun and cloudless skies. Sites with little or no shade were more vulnerable to the elements, sculptors found. Sculptors considered themselves lucky to be in heavily shaded sites, where the drop in temperatures was noticeable.
Mark Chapin and his teammate Travis DeMontigny traveled from Northern California hoping for much colder weather to create their entries in the single- and multi-block competitions.
''We will be doing most of our sculpting at night due to the heat, but I enjoy working at night anyway,'' he said. ''Negative 10 to 10 degrees are the ideal temperatures for carving ice. If it is too cold, then the ice is too brittle, but it has to be below freezing to bond the ice blocks with water.''
Chapin, originally from Fairbanks, has entered the ice art competition since 1993. This is DeMontigny's first trip to Alaska and his first ice art competition.
''I was expecting much colder temperatures, but I hear it is supposed to get colder later on in the week,'' he said.
DeMontigny said the single block piece the duo completed last week was almost ruined from the warm temperatures.
That's not stopping the visitors, apparently. Three-year volunteer Lavina Noll has seen an increase in patrons visiting the Ice Park over last year.
''I can't say if it's from the warmer temperatures or not, but we have had a lot more people buying tickets than we did last year,'' she said.
The single block competition consists of two-person teams who have three days to sculpt a giant refrigerator-sized block of ice.
In the multi-block contest, four-person teams have 5 1/2 days to sculpt 12 smaller blocks of ice, each weighing 3,000 pounds. That contest ends Saturday night.
Alaskan Steve Dean took top honors in the single block realistic contest. Russian ice artists Vladimir Zhikhartsev and Nadya Fedotova took first place in the single block abstract competition.
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