At the Harbin Ice Festival, fun requires a long freeze

A mild winter wouldn’t be good news in Harbin. The city of 5 million in northeastern China relies on very cold temperatures to hold its International Ice and Snow Festival. Temperatures were well below freezing Thursday as the city officially opened the 39th annual festival.

People visit the colorful display at the Harbin Ice and Snow World in China. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

Ice and Snow World, an attraction with hundreds of towers, castles and other structures made from ice blocks, is the highlight of the event. The structures are illuminated in bright colors to make nighttime visits especially popular. Families can walk through some of the buildings and try out several ice slides. New this year is a 400-foot Ferris wheel to take in the sights. The ride has a giant snowflake on the side in keeping with the wintry theme.

Visitors watch fireworks explode during the festival's opening night ceremony. The new Ferris wheel can be seen in the background.

Xie Jianfei/AP

Xie Jianfei/AP

A visitor slides down a path at the Ice and Snow World in Harbin this week. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

A woman poses while sitting on a horse sculpture at the Ice and Snow World. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

People walk and play at the colorful Ice and Snow World Festival this week. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

The ice comes from the nearby Songhua River. Workers cut blocks from the frozen river and spend weeks transporting them to the festival site, stacking and shaping them.

Men work on a snow house at the annual winter sculpture festival in Harbin. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

Others turn piles of snow into huge sculptures, some of which are part of an art competition.

A man poses in front of a giant snow sculpture at the Ice and Snow Festival. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

Children play at an amusement park ahead of the Ice and Snow Festival. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

Cold-weather sports, including skiing, sledding and skating, are popular daytime activities. There’s even an ice swimming event for those brave enough to swim in the Songhua.

People use a sled over a frozen river at the annual winter sculpture festival. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

A man dives into a pool cut into the river at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. (Hector Retamal/Getty Images)

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

The festival usually closes at the end of February, but only if Mother Nature doesn’t provide a warm spell before then.

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

More from the Post

The latest from The Washington Post