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Seven-foot ice sculpture comes to life at Gunstock



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Award-winning ice sculptor carves a 7-foot serpent at Gunstock. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
January 27, 2010
Its head above the surrounding skiers and snowboarders, a 7-foot serpent of ice graced the slopes on Gunstock's terrain last weekend, coming to life in the hands of award-winning ice sculptor and local chef, Jeff Day.

Last Saturday and Sunday, Sanbornton resident Day set to work at Gunstock with a chisel, a sander, and power tools in hand to create a giant serpent made of 6,000 pounds of fused ice.

Day said each block of ice weighs 300 pounds, and that he makes the ice himself out of the basement of one of his restaurants. He also has a studio and a much needed, large walk-in freezer near his home. He explained that each tool used to carve out an ice sculpture originated from another trade.

With 15 years of ice sculpting experience under Day's belt, it only took him two days to complete his slippery, slithering pal with the help of another local chef, Scott Jones.

Day said some of his large ice sculptures take a little bit longer to finish, although he can create a swan out of ice in 45 minutes for a wedding, a craft that used to take him three hours. To Day, practice makes perfect, and he said thanks to his career as an established chef and his determination, he has excelled over the years in ice sculpting.

Gunstock staff set Day up by some of the lower ski hills where children could watch him work on his serpent. Day said he picked the serpent especially for the children, who are always curious about ice sculpting and ask him a dozen questions at a time about his craft.

"This is a kid environment. The kids think the serpent is really cool. It's fun to do here. I get to be interactive with people and talk," said Day.

He said Gunstock contacted him and asked if he would like to show off his ice sculpting skills last weekend, and allowed him to make any creation he wanted to. Day said with more experience, he has found it easier to conjure up different creations, such as his award winning gargoyle. Sometimes people will request designs such as a car, but he said those types of shapes would be much more difficult to achieve, and could appear too translucent.

Although Day considers himself first and foremost a chef and restaurant owner, ice sculpting is certainly one of his favorite hobbies, and he said he was more than happy to take the gig.

He used to immerse himself in various ice sculpting competitions, and even scored second place out of 33 teams at the World Ice Carving Championship in Alaska during 1996, but he is mainly busy with his three different restaurants. Day owns Plain Jane's Diner in Rumney and the Coe House in Center Harbor, and he partially owns the new 104 Diner on Route 104 in New Hampton.

Starting out in culinary arts and living in San Diego for a while brought Day to the career he has today.

"I worked in San Diego at a hotel. I worked a brunch where there were seven carvings every Sunday. Seeing the sculptures in California and running hotels got me into ice sculpting," said Day. "In my free time I tried and competed in a lot of tournaments. I'm self driven. Once I started competing, I started winning."

Gunstock planned to keep the ice serpent on display for several days after Day finished the sculpture. Day said the amount of light and the UV rays usually determine how long an ice sculpture can last for, but because of the predicted rain, the serpent had to find shelter under a tarp for a few days. Day said he will often keep his sculptures under a tent during competitions as well to ensure that they last a little longer. Otherwise, these sculptures could be ruined in mere hours or start to crack, said Day.

Although Day worked in San Diego for a while, he said he grew up in the Bristol and Newfound area, and that he decided to move back not only for his career, but to raise a family in a more ideal location.

Day is a member of the National Ice Carving Association and puts his craft to good use during big events such as Winterfest in Maine, and Governor's Inaugural Balls.

For those interested in more information on Jeff Day, his trade and his restaurants, visit icedesigns-nh.com or reallifedining.com.

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