The snow festival first began in 1950, when local middle and high school students created six snow sculptures in Odori Park.
The 1950 festival was held in conjuction with snowball fights, snow sculpture exhibitions, and a carnival. Despite low expectations, more than 50 thousand people showed up to the event. Following this, the snow festival became known as a seasonal event held every winter by the city citizens. Three years later (1953), for the first time, a towering 15 meter (~49 ft.3 in.) snow sculpture, "Ascension", was made.
In 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces also participated, and challenged themselves to making a large-scale snow sculpture.
The 10th year anniversary in 1959 saw the rallying of 2,500 participants in the making of the snow sculptures. This was also the first time the event was introduced on television stations and newspaper articles. Accordingly, due to the exposure gained from the media, the following year's festival became a huge success with the increase in the number of tourists from Honshu.
1965, formally established the Makomanai venue as the second venue.
In 1972, the Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo. This year's snow festival was held with the theme, "Welcome to Sapporo" - thus gaining exposure for the event on an international level.
1974 was the year of adversity marked by the oil crisis. Gasoline was not able to be procured for the small trucks responsible for treading over the soft snow continuously to create solid, hard snow. Creative measures had to be taken to keep the snow statues standing, such as the usage of steel drums within the structures. Additionally, this year marked the start of the International Snow Sculpture Contest.
In the ensuing years, following 1974, cosmopolitan locations with strong ties to Sapporo such as Shenyang, Alberta, Munich, Sydney, Poland, etc. were exhibited as snow sculptures, distinguishing the forming of the snow festival from a domestic event to an international event.
Afterwards, the 34th anniversary in 1983 came with the arrival of the Susukino venue as the third official venue, emerging with a spectacular display of neon-lit snow sculptures, pioneering a new aspect to the snow festival. From 1984, the two day event was extended to seven days. The continuing expansion fo the festival can be attributed to the popularity of the well loved snow festival with people worldwide.
In 2005, the 40 year Makomanai venue closed down. From 2006 - 2008, the Sapporo Satoland venue was opened, and from 2009, the Tsudome venue was designated as the second venue. With every coming day, the snow festival will continue to evolve and move towards new innovative fronts.