Thailand doesn’t conjure images of a winter wonderland (snow in Thailand made headlines in 1955, then again in 2005), but apparently the Thai have a talent for building snow sculptures. Thailand took the prize for best snow sculture at this year’s Sapporo Snow Festival in the capital of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. The winning sculture depicts a family of elephants, one of the Thailand’s symbols. In the sculture, the elephants are painting—a skill some captive elephants show off in Northern Thailand. The winning entry can be seen here.
Eleven teams from countries around the world took part in this year’s contest. Finland took the runner-up prize with a giant snow grasshopper, followed by Indonesia with a icy Balinese dancer, Sweden with a frozen wilderness and Singapore with a more philosophical, abstract sculpture called “Saving Gaia.” Portland and Hawaii represented Team U.S.A., but their entries failed to place.
The annual festival, billed as an international gathering point that “evokes a pristine snow fantasy,” attracts around 2 million people each year with its snow and ice sculptures. It also features life-sized snow sculture buildings, which require a nine step process—preparing the base, heaping snow, heaping still more snow, building scaffolding, outlining the sculpture, carving the sculture, adding details and putting on final fine touches— to “really come to life.” Until spring arrives, that is.
More from Smithsonian.com: