Ice carver Tim Pierce

Shown here with his winning entry in the 2019 Great Ice Carvers of New England Invitational Ice Carving Competition, Tim Pierce of Rockport, Maine, will take part in this year’s event, which starts at 10 a.m. Monday at The Wentworth Inn in Jackson.

Sidelined last year because of a back injury, Tim Pierce hopes to return to winning form when the 27th annual Great Ice Carvers of New England Invitational Ice Carving Competition begins at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 10, at The Wentworth Inn in Jackson.

Competitors will transform 300-pound blocks of ice into cold, hard, yet ephemeral objets d’art that will grace the inn’s veranda until they melt.

“I start off with a chainsaw,” said Pierce, a regular at the regional competition. “You do 80 percent of the work before switching to finer tools,” such as die grinders (industrial-strength Dremel-type tools), chisels, sanders, torches and irons.

Each carver will have three hours to make their visions come alive, and while visitors can watch any part of the action, the most intense and possibly best time may be the final 30 minutes, Pierce said during a Jan. 3 telephone interview.

“The pieces are coming together and that’s when things get really exciting,” he said.

Pierce is the food-service manager at Regional School Unit 13 in Rockland, Maine. RSU 13 serves students at four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.

Pierce said he was the chef de cuisine/garde manger for six years at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville and executive chef for 18 years at the Samoset Resort in Rockland.

In the 1990s, Pierce began his New Hampshire culinary career at the Christmas Farm Inn in Jackson, where he did a few ice carvings for various events.

One day, Pierce heard of an ice-carving contest in Jackson village and decided to give it a try.

“I kind of jumped in with both feet. I had a lot of fun doing it,” Pierce said, “but I didn’t place very well. (But) I got my picture on the front page of the Mountain Ear,” a now-defunct weekly newspaper in the Mount Washington Valley.

So he kept working at it, getting a little better each year.

“Just keep learning and working with other carvers over the years and you keep getting better,” he said.

Pierce has won several titles at The Wentworth, and also was also a judge for the National Ice Carving Association and served as lead judge at the 2012 National Ice Carving Championships in Branson, Mo.

“I’ve done a few things competitively throughout New England,” said Pierce, “but The Wentworth is the fun one for me. It’s the one I’ve always gone back to. We have a good time.”

The “we” that Pierce referred to includes fellow ice carvers Murray Long of Rochester, Wayne Miller of Walpole and Stephen Kesheb of Lancaster, all of whom have committed to being at the 2022 Competition, said Kathleen DeVitto, director of sales at The Wentworth.

In addition to bragging rights for a year, ice carvers are vying to win a top prize of $500. The first runner-up gets $250 while the third-place finisher receives an overnight stay for two at The Wentworth. There is also a People’s Choice award that comes with a prize of $100.

Asked about the key to carving winning ice sculptures, Pierce replied that “for me, it’s always practice and planning.”

At the Samoset Resort, “I had the chance to practice but it’s a little harder now because I don’t have the ice and I don’t have the excuse of carving for buffets and things all the time.”

Nonetheless, Pierce still likes his chances at next week’s competition.

“I’m not 100 percent sure as to what I’m going to carve, but I have a couple of ideas depending on the weather of the day,” he said. After that, the execution of it goes from the massive to the minute.