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Think outside the cube and visit an icefest

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As temperatures drop, ice carvers get to work.

The ice hotel called Hotel de Glace in Quebec will observe its 15th anniversary by offering an array of suites, including ones inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and Einstein’s curvature of space-time (rates from $400; Jan. 5 to March 22).

The Harbin Ice Festival in China, now in its 31st year and considered the largest in the world with more than 2,000 sculptures, dispatched 150 artisans to four Gaylord hotels across the United States to create Ice! with themes that include Frosty the Snowman and "The Nutcracker" (about $25 for adults).

Snow and ice also seem to stir some friendly competition.

Lake Geneva in Wisconsin will be host to the U.S. National Snow-Sculpting Competition, in which teams of three will transform 9-foot blocks of ice into sculptures (Jan. 28 to Feb. 7). At the Fairmont Banff Lake Louise, a 34-hour Ice Magic Festival competition begins Jan. 16 when professional carvers tackle 300-pound blocks. The resort also has a Little Chippers weekend (Jan. 24-25) for children to learn and practice carving ice blocks.

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in upstate New York continues traditions from 1897 with a 10-day festival, two parades and three fireworks displays set around an Ice Palace made from 400- to 800-pound ice blocks cut by traditional large hand saws (Feb. 6 to 15).

Mount Washington Valley, N.H., offers an Ice Fest (Feb. 6 to 8) for ice climbers. Michigan’s Ice Fest (Feb. 5 to 8) on the Upper Peninsula is a weekend-long festival on the shores of Lake Superior, with "socials" and lessons for ice climbers.

The Icehotel in northern Sweden is celebrating its 25th anniversary, with the design theme of "freedom" across its 60 rooms.

"Ours is an ephemeral hotel that is built every year, in tune with the cycle of nature and the river," its creative director Arne Bergh, said in a telephone interview. "Our philosophy is that nothing should be repeated and everything should rise from the river."

By Charu Suri, New York Times

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