Ice and snow form the basis for parties around the globe. Here's a sampling of some of the oldest and best.
* Quebec City. Quebec's annual Winter Carnival -- this winter, Jan. 27-Feb. 12 -- is the king of Canada's winter festivals. Hit the slides on a 30-foot-high ice tower, bathe in snow, enter an ice-fishing contest. Concerts, shows, dog sled rides and snow sculptures are among the attractions, along with plenty of celebrating with libations after dark. Details: 866-422-7628, www.carnaval.qc.ca.
* Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival, aka Mardi Gras in mukluks, runs Feb. 23-26. It includes a fiddlers' show, costume contests, a military air show and races. Strength and stamina are tested in competitions to throw axes, chuck chain saws and go "smooshing" -- which involves teams of five people racing with 2-by-4s strapped to their feet. Details: 867-393-4467, www.yukonrendezvous.com.
* Toronto. The WinterCity Festival, Jan. 27-Feb. 9, brings music and theater troupes outdoors. Between acts, warm up indoors at the 120 Toronto restaurants sponsoring Winterlicious -- a culinary celebration featuring fixed-price, three-course meals at special prices ($8 or $17 for lunch, $17 or $25 for dinner.) Details: 416-338-0338, www.toronto.ca/special_events.
* Hokkaido Island. The Sapporo Snow Festival, Feb. 6-12, is the world's premier snow-carving showplace. Spectacular, multi-story snow sculptures -- including castles, shrines and cartoon characters the size of McMansions -- are carved from blocks of snow so massive it can take a staff of 1,000 people 20 days to create one sculpture in the international competition. Details: 011-211-2376, www.snowfes.com/english.
* Kiruna. Europe's largest winter carnival, the Kiruna Ice Festival, Jan. 27-28, includes late-night parties in huge igloos; dog sled, reindeer and skidoo races; ice sculpture competitions; snowman-building contests; and outdoor barbecues with reindeer kabob. Details: 212-885-9700, www.lappland.se.
* St. Paul, Minn. The St. Paul Winter Carnival, a tradition since 1886, runs this winter from Jan. 27 through Feb. 5 with 75 events, including two parades, golf in the snow, softball on frozen lakes, car races on Lake Phalen and various games and competitions, including ice and snow sculpting. Details: 800-627-6101, www.winter-carnival.com.
* Park City, Utah. The Winterfest Celebration, Feb. 3-12, is a 10-day party. Park City, co-host of the 2002 Winter Olympics and less than an hour from Salt Lake City, has planned this year's festival to coincide with the Feb. 10 opening of the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Festivities include fireworks, concerts, a sled dog race and ice-carving contests. Details: 800-453-1360, www.parkcityinfo.com.
* Anchorage. The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, Feb. 17-March 5, is wild and wacky, with 120 activities, including the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The festival kicks off with fireworks, then turns to wacky events, such as canoeing down icy hills, outdoor auctions, snowshoe softball, a dog weight pull, dance and bagpipe competitions, and a formal masque ball. Details: 907-274-1177, www.anchorage.net/745.cfm.
* Wisconsin Dells, Wis. The one-day Flake Out Festival (Jan. 5) features state-sanctioned snow and ice-sculpting competitions, snowmobile races, sleigh rides, food, music and hot-air balloons. Details: 800-223-3557, www.dells.com.
* Somerset, Pa. Fire jugglers perform as ice carvers do their thing at the Fire & Ice Festival, Jan. 13-15. A local as opposed to world-class festival, it has the advantage of being within driving distance of D.C. and includes fireworks, a chili cook-off, a Snow Baby Contest and games. Details: 814-443-1748, www.somersetinc.org/fireandice.htm.
-- Cindy Loose