Snow sculpture of a happy Buddha

Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

If you're like most people, you can barely create a snowman — well, not a recognizable one, at least. But some talented sculptors are so good at manipulating this icy medium that international competitions are held during the winter around the world. By far the most famous festival is the International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in Harbin, China, which takes place every December or January. There are also competitions in Canada and Japan, where snowfall is frequent and plentiful.

Milky white and smooth as glass, snow sculptures resemble traditional marble works of art, but the scale is much different. Like sand sculptures, these artistic feats are temporary but massive, sometimes stretching for hundreds of feet to completely take over the winter landscape.

As with ice sculptures, artists chisel away at gathered hunks of snow, carefully keeping the pure white form of the delicate medium — any amount of dirt can take away from the overall experience.

So while we're in our yards making snow angels, sculptors create statuesque angels that tower over passerby. While we're rolling up humble balls of snow to create an Olaf-style snowman, sculptors spend days perfecting the realistic features of Buddha. As a tribute to these hardworking artists, here's a roundup of the most awe-inspiring snow sculptures from around the world:

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A 380-foot long, 85 feet tall sculpture at the Harbin International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in January 2014

Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

This sculpture at this year's Harbin International Snow Sculpture Art Expo in Sun Island Park in China had an elegant, windblown quality to it. If you look closely, you can see carefully-carved flowers and even a cosmic model. This sculpture spanned over 380 feet in width, reaching 85 feet into the air. A sight to behold!

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A snow sculpture of children riding a dragon

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

From the trunks of the trees to the expressive dragon, this snow sculpture from the Harbin festival in 2005 lit up imaginations with its storytelling style.

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One of the world's largest snow sculptures, 'Dragon Castle'

Photo: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

One of the world's largest snow sculptures to date, the "Dragon Castle" at the 2004 Asahikawa Winter Festival in Japan, was so sturdy that visitors could walk on it.

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Intricate snow sculpture of an owl

Photo: Rina Sergeeva/flickr

The winning sculpture at the Siberian Snow Sculpture Festival in Novosibirsk, Russia, in 2010 was a wise owl with impressively imposing wings.

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A snow sculpture of Nagoya Castle

Photo: Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images

A detailed snow sculpture of the Nagoya Castle at the 2005 Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan.

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Snow sculpture of a woman wearing elaborate jewelry

Photo: Goh Chai Hin/Getty Images

This piece from the 2014 Harbin festival shows the softer, feminine side of snow sculpting. The facial details are astounding.

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 A snow sculpture of 'the Earth and the Future of Our Children'

Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

This heartwarming scene is called "The Earth and the Future of Our Children." Chiseled into a great wall of snow, it was a featured sculpture at the 2008 Sapporo Snow Festival.

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Snow sculpture of many different faces at Harbin in 2010

Photo: i a walsh/flickr

Another Harbin masterpiece from 2005 shows elaborately dressed figures — even their eyes look realistic!

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A snow sculpture of a woman whose hair is blowing in the wind

Photo: China Photos/Getty Images

An all-time favorite, the wind blows through a woman's hair in this sculpture full of gravity-defying movement. It was one section of a 115-foot-tall, 650-foot-long sculpture called "Romantic Feelings" featured in the 2007 Harbin festival. 

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Anna Norris is an associate editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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