Carlie Blackman and Jody Dase at Abominable Snow Race

Climbing up a hill Jan. 27 at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa are Carlie Blackman, left, of Fontana, and Jody Dase of Walworth, competitors in the Abominable Snow Race during opening weekend of Winterfest in Lake Geneva. (Photo by Scott Williams/Regional News)

Fifteen teams of snow sculptors are in Lake Geneva this week carving out their masterpieces.

The annual U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition will be held through Feb. 4 in front of the Riviera building and at Flat Iron Park, as part of the annual Winterfest celebration.

Winterfest is a nine-day event in Lake Geneva that features not only the snow sculpting competition but also a cocoa crawl, helicopter rides, a winter carnival, and specials at many restaurants and other businesses.

Ed Svitak, president of VISIT Lake Geneva, said planning for the snow sculpting competition was on schedule, and the weather forecast seemed to be delivering good winter conditions for the outdoor event.

“Planning has been outstanding,” Svitak said. “The weather is cooperating. It looks like during the next six or seven days, we’re going to have the weather we need for the snow sculptures.”

The snow sculpting teams come from throughout the country to compete in Lake Geneva. The teams were scheduled to begin their sculptures on Jan. 31, with awards announced Feb. 3.

Besides the sculptors, the competition and citywide festival attract many visitors to Lake Geneva.

Svitak said the competition last year attracted a record 35,000 people during Winterfest. The goal this year is to beat that record and attract at least 40,000 people.

“With the advertising and marketing that we’ve done, we feel confident that we’re going to achieve (that record),” he said.

Temperatures were forecast to reach the 30s during the festival, which Svitak said would help to draw crowds to enjoy the festival and keep local businesses busy.

Scott Fazel, manager at Bella Vista Suites in Lake Geneva, said the hotel usually sees an increase in visitors during the week of the snow sculpting and festival.

“People come from throughout the country for this,” Fazel said. “People come and spend money. It’s also a free event, so people who are on a budget can come out with their children. It’s a fantastic event. The sculptures are world-class. So when people come out and spend money, that’s good for Lake Geneva.”

Fazel said Winterfest also gives national exposure for Lake Geneva.

“It’s a premier, national event,” he said. “We’ve been on CNN and Milwaukee television. It helps generate sales tax, and it keeps the downtown vibrant.”

Tammie Carstensen, general manager for Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva, said the snow sculpting competition helps attract patrons during a sometimes slow winter season for hotels.

“Once Winterfest happens, my season starts,” Carstensen said. “It brings a lot of people to the local businesses and to downtown.”

Besides the snow sculpting, visitors enjoy the other Winterfest activities, as well, she said.

“People say they want to come back because they didn’t get everything done,” she said. “They’re excited to come back, so they can participate in everything.”

For the snow sculptors, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa provides about 100 tons of manufactured snow for the competition. The Lake Geneva Public Works Department moves the snow to the Rivera building and Flat Iron Park to get it into position for the competition.

“Without this type of partnership, events like this would not take place,” Svitak said. “With 100 tons of snow, that’s a lot of weight to move around. (The competition) is a great collaboration of partnerships.”