WHITEHORSE - Think of the frost fairy on a really bad hair day.
Those are the prospective winners at the Takhini Hot Pools hair-freezing contest that have captured the attention of many through the Internet.
Andrew Umbrich, owner of the hot pools just outside of Whitehorse, says the competition started off in 2011 as a small event that took place over a few weeks every February during the annual Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival. But things got a bit hairy in 2015 when a few people from France and one person from Quebec submitted a video of some fantastic frozen hair.
Before then, the coiffure competition would only see about 10 contestants a year, but so far this year they've had 35 photo submissions and Umbrich said they expect many more.
Conditions need to be just right, he said. While the hot springs are always around 42 Celsius, the air has to get at least minus 20 to get the right ice sculpt.
"It's still possible to freeze your hair at (warmer) temperatures, but it just takes a lot longer."
Beards and long locks are best for sculpting, he said, because they allow for ice-covered hair styles that can resemble anything from a Mohawk to Medusa with a frosted coating.
Getting the exact coif take some skill and a bit of experimentation, Umbrich said.
"When you're sitting in 42-degree water, there’s a lot of steam coming up. And when it's minus 20, 30, 40, the steam is even more pronounced.
"First you wet your hair and all that steam gathers on your wet hair and it freezes very quickly when it meets the minus-40 air."
In the right conditions it takes from 10 to 15 minutes for hair to freeze.
"Some people even use a bit of snow to accelerate it," he added.
Umbrich said he's never heard complaints of hair breaking or getting damaged, and the frosty coating disappears the moment it's dunked back in the water.
Of course, the disadvantages are that it can be cold out of the water, especially for your ears, he said.
"But all they do is just dip their ear in the water. Other than that, you're in 42-degree water. If anything, you might be too hot."
The first-place winner gets $750 and a complementary 30-soak membership, while second and third place get $200 and $100 respectively, along with complementary passes.
The contest runs all winter, on any day it's cold enough, and the winner is announced about mid-March.
Umbrich and his wife decide the winners, based on the most inventive frozen bouffant.
— By Terri Theodore in Vancouver