A chip off the old ice block | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A chip off the old ice block

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneCynthia Kroon, a culinary arts instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College, creates a sculpture of Bambi out of ice on the lawn in front of the Heavenly gondola.

Chips sprayed from melting blocks of ice as off-duty chefs used chainsaws and hand chisels to carve sculptures from 350 pound blocks of the cold stuff.

With temperatures hovering around 50 degrees on Thursday, skiers and riders shuffling in front of the Heavenly Ski Resort gondola stopped to watch the sculptors at work.

“Hopefully your work will still be here when we get down from the mountain,” said Gary Sandridge, 38, of Hollywood.

The ice carving, which took place in front of the gondola on Wednesday and Thursday, was part of Lake Tahoe’s Big Winter Chill, a weeklong event that provides a number of activities at Stateline through Sunday.

Sandridge said he comes to Tahoe every year for at least a week, spending four days at North Shore and four days at South Shore.

“I imagine it’s very delicate work,” Sandridge said. “If you tip off a piece, the sculpture is gone.”

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The sculptures take artists anywhere from an hour to several hours to complete. They start with blocks of ice, which cost about $50 apiece, a sheet of paper and a pencil. Once the image they want to carve is sketched out, the ice carvers affix the paper to ice then look for their chainsaw.

Cynthia Kroon, a culinary arts instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College, has been detailing ice for 13 years. She learned sculpting through an internship during which she carved 300 to 400 sculptures for free.

Kroon was working on a sculpture of Walt Disney’s famous fawn, Bambi. An untouched block of ice was covered in plastic to avoid ultraviolet light that would be used to make the fawn’s parent.

Next to Kroon, two chefs were working on what they called “Ice Slayer.”

Tim Carman, a pastry chef at the Atlantis in Reno, used a chainsaw to create a warrior who is wielding a sword. Simultaneously, Alan Cook, a chef at John Ascauga’s Nugget in Reno, worked on a beast, which is the prey for the Ice Slayer warrior.

Cook, who has worked with ice for 25 years, said carving skills are generally required of people who work in the culinary industry.

Still, the creations that are considered works of art, are as fleeting as spring thaw.

“Inside a house, they last about four hours,” he said.

On Saturday, at 8 p.m., as part of the Big Winter Chill, Heavenly will host a torchlight parade with fireworks. The resort on Sunday will present a snowboarding exhibition.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com