>> By Alison Lapshinoff
Winter 2014, Issue #39
The 300-pound block was slick, cold. It had no handholds. A man in heavy gloves heaved its bulk toward the emerging structure and placed it next to the last, forming the beginning of a wall. One may picture a crew of dusty stonemasons erecting some giant monolith in a noisy, smog-choked city: quite the contrary.
Beneath a wintry sky, families of ice skaters glided by the unusual construction site. Here the ‘masons’ were artists, the ‘bricks’ formed of ice and the ‘mortar’ snow and water.
This Canadian winter wonderland is the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise held every winter in mid-January.
The sculptors are a team working for a Calgary-based company called Frozen Memories and the structure a life-sized, fairytale ice castle complete with interior spaces to skate through and lounges of ice for resting tired legs.
Kegan Podolas grew up in Winnipeg, where every winter the Festival du Voyageur draws artists who create sculptures of ice and snow to decorate the city boulevards, an attempt to get people out of hibernation and into the frosty air. Before moving to Revelstoke a few years ago, he spent some time in Jasper where he completed his culinary apprenticeship. But the idea of ice carving stayed with him, his creativity manifesting itself in the form of elaborate fruit carvings to adorn banquet tables.
“[Ice carving] is tied in with the culinary industry,” Kegan explains, “because it is so often used in hospitality.”
Kegan Podolas grew up in Winnipeg. Before moving to Revelstoke, he spent some time in Jasper where he completed his culinary apprenticeship. But the idea of ice carving stayed with him.
About five years ago at a brewery tour in Banff, Kegan cornered Lee Ross, former executive chef and owner of Frozen Memories. “He blew me off at first.” Kegan laughs. “He gets lots of calls from gung-ho apprentices.”
But Kegan was persistent. He bought Lee a couple of beers and finally got his number. Kegan’s tenacity paid off. After countless phone calls and maybe even a little stalking, Kegan landed a job on the ‘brick and mortar’ team at the Ice Magic Festival. Since then Lee has become something of an ice carving mentor.
Construction of the castle is a huge undertaking. The ice blocks are made in Calgary at the Frozen Memories studio. Water is frozen in forms using Clinebell freezers, units specifically designed to produce crystal clear carving ice. Once frozen, it is ‘harvested’ using a huge hoist and clamps. Kegan likens it to “taking the engine out of a car.””
The ice blocks for the ice castle are made in Calgary at the Frozen Memories studio. Water is frozen in forms using freezers specifically designed to produce crystal clear carving ice. Once frozen, it is ‘harvested’ using a huge hoist and clamps. Kegan likens it to “taking the engine out of a car.
After removing any irregularities with a double-handed chainsaw, the blocks are transported to Lake Louise in wooden crates where a team of four, clad in heavy duty gloves and crampons, spend about three 16-hour days erecting the castle on the frozen lake.
“The base is crucial,” Kegan says. “It has to be level and you must compensate for the angle of the lake.” Contrary to what one might expect, the frozen lake surface is often uneven. “It has to be properly engineered.”
Since building his first castle, Kegan’s ice carving experience has grown. Using various shapes and sizes of chisels, chainsaws, nail boards (like sandpaper), Dremel tools and torches, Kegan has brought ice to life in many forms, always starting with 300-pound rectangular blocks made at the Frozen Memories studio.
At Sun Peaks Resort he created a life-sized horse for Chinese New Year and at the Banff Springs Hotel, a Plinko board of ice for a casino-themed event. A corporate advertising project had him freezing iconic images of Canadian hockey legends into ice and in Lake Louise, he sculpted an icy podium for the World Cup Downhill Skiing event.
Kegan has worked on a team constructing an ice maze and slide for kids at Alberta Beach near Edmonton as well as an Absolut ice luge through which shots are poured for adults.
“People like interactive drinks,” Kegan laughs, elaborating on an idea he has in mind for an ice bar and lounge at a ski resort.
Working with a miniature model as a guide, he has carved an elk, an eagle and a swan, to name a few. These types of pieces are often backlit with coloured light and used as focal points on banquet tables. He has even sculpted his dog, Hugo, who he carved from memory. “I pet him every day so I know all the contours of his body,” he explains.
Hugo was his first independent sale to the Regent Hotel. Kegan currently works at Revelstoke’s 112 Restaurant as a chef. This coming winter will begin a new chapter in Kegan’s ice carving career as he will be launching his company, Blue Bird Sculpture, right
here in Revelstoke. “My business will be based around live demos,” he says. Kegan will travel to festivals, events and ski resorts throughout B.C. where he will create sculptures of ice before live audiences, providing a beautiful piece of frozen artwork and entertainment for the crowds. “It’s always been my dream to work for myself,” he adds.
So when skiing or snowboarding in B.C. this winter, keep a lookout at the base of the mountain for that open air ice bar and lounge. Perhaps Kegan will be busy with his chisels and torches bringing some magic to the frosty air.
And if you’re lucky, the bartender will be around and the Absolut ice luge will be ready to go!
Visit Kegan Podolas through his website: bluebirdsculpture.com.
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