For those who live close to one of the poles, snow and ice sculptures are serious art forms. Whether it's a massive ice castle or a fully functional ice piano, the sky's the limit for what these sculptors can create.

There are contests and festivals around the world dedicated to this skill, from the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China, to the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Here are 15 wintry creations that will give your backyard snowman a serious complex.

Hokkaido ice dinos

Spectators visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan, gather around a massive snow sculpture depicting the giant reptiles of Earth's past, including a Brachiosaurus, a Triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus. About 300 snow and ice sculptures are on display during the festival, which is usually held in early February. As the largest winter tourism event of Japan, the Sapporo Snow Festival has attracted an annual average of about 2 million visitors over the last five years.

Stranded polar bears

Two polar bears made of snow are shown stranded atop an SUV in this snow sculpture created in February 2007 by Maia Iotzova for the British Columbia Snow Sculpture Championships in Vernon in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Snow men in Sapporo

A little girl bundled in polka dots plays among snow men made by children during the 60th annual Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido, Japan.

World Ice Art Championships

Alaska artist Heather Brice carves away at a block of ice as she creates her sculpture, "Finders Keepers," at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. More than 1,700 tons of ice are harvested for the annual March event, which includes incredibly intricate sculptures measuring up to 20 feet in height and weighing thousands of pounds each.

Icy eyes

A young girl peers through an ice lens at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. In addition to being a serious competition for ice sculptors from around the world, the month-long event also features a playground made entirely of ice.

"Aiming Eyes"

A praying mantis ice sculpture, carved from a single block of ice by Junichi Nakamura and Peter Slavin, is lit up in green and red light during the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska. The sculpture, titled "Aiming Eyes," went on to win first place in the realistic category of the competition.

Melting people

Ice sculptures shaped like miniature people melt in the sun on a stairway leading to the concert hall near the central square in Berlin. Environmental group WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) created the sculptures to call public attention to the dramatic consequences of the warming of the Arctic region.

Psychedelic snow castle

A large ice castle lit up with multicolored lights is viewed through another ice sculpture at Zhaolin Park in Harbin, China. Each year, the city holds the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in January. The festival features large ice sculptures, ice lanterns, ice slides, ice castles and even opportunities to take a frosty dip in the freezing Songhua River.

Ice piano

A visitor plays on the world's first functional ice piano — an instrument designed and built by a local landscaping company — after it was unveiled at the 20th annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China.

Snowy Niagara

The Guinness record for the largest snow sculpture is held by this massive 2007 recreation of Niagara Falls, which was accompanied by a snowy version of the famous Niagara tour boat, Maid of the Mist. The sculpture was built for the annual festival in Harbin, which is in the northeast Chinese province of Heilongjiang.

Snowy ski mask

A visitor observes an enormous illuminated snow sculpture on display at a snow art competition in Pontresina, Switzerland.

Ottawa's Winterlude

Spectators crowd around a snow sculpture depicting a snowboarder rounding a tree at the Winterlude festival in Ottawa, Canada. Winterlude is an annual snow festival that lasts three weekends in February and features the largest ice skating rink in the world, the continent's largest snow playground and, of course, a snow sculpting competition.

New icy friends

Two penguin sculptures constructed from ice stand next to Copenhagen's famous Little Mermaid sculpture in Denmark. The sculptures were created for the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Copenhagen Summit.

A palace fit for an ice king

Visitors explore the numerous ice and snow sculptures as the sun sets on an intricate ice castle featured at the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin, China.

Ice block slide

A child plays on a slide made entirely of ice blocks while an adult watches from afar at the snow festival in Abashiri, Japan.

Click for photo credits

Photo credits:

Ice dinos: Starfires/Flickr

Polar bears: slightly-less-random/Flickr

Snow men in Sapporo: ZUMA Press

Ice Art Championships: ZUMA Press

Icy eyes: ZUMA Press

Aiming eyes: ZUMA Press

Melting people: Hannibal Hanschke

Psychedelic snow castle: ZUMA Press

Ice piano: ZUMA Press

Snowy Niagara: stewils/Flickr

Snowy ski mask: ZUMA Press

Winterlude: Robbie1/Flickr

New icy friends: ZUMA Press

Palace: frankartculinary/Flickr

Ice block slide: JanneM/Flickr

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

15 impressive winter creations
Here are 15 wintry creations that will give your backyard snowman a run for the money.