If you’re looking for the quintessential Canadian Rockies experience, the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival might well be it. This event is part of SnowDays, a month-long celebration of winter in Banff National Park, and with both indoor and outdoor activities your family can have fun no matter what the weather’s like.
We went this year for the second time and were just as impressed as we were last year when we saw the “magic” for the first time. This year the event was spread over two weekends – the first was a focus on the teams carving the ice sculptures and the second provided lots of opportunity to see the incredible sculptures and also gave kids a chance to give ice sculpting a go.
The ice sculptures are part of a competition featuring teams from around the world that carve based on a particular theme that changes from year to year. The competition is judged, but the public has a chance to vote for the People’s Choice Award. I’d definitely recommend taking some time to walk around and look at the finished sculptures, which are absolutely beautiful (but temporary) works of art. As you’re walking around, be sure to check out the ice bar (where you can also get hot chocolate) and wander over for a snowy treat made with maple syrup.
If you have skates, take them with you to Lake Louise so you can glide around a portion of the lake, which has its own sculpture in the form of an ice castle. If you’re there at the right time you can even skate with the Ice Queen.
If you’re looking for something with a little more speed, head over to the toboggan hill. The sign advises that you toboggan at your own risk, and they’re not kidding. This year the hill was fast and if you have small kids I’d suggest having someone near the bottom of the hill to tackle them so they don’t fly right out onto the lake. (You can imagine how much our four-year-old enjoyed that!)
If your kids are the tamer type you can head into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where you’ll find places to sit and warm up, and you can buy food and drink at the hotel’s deli, restaurants and shops. The Cozy Corner Kids Indoor Activity Centre is inside the chateau as well, and for a $2 entry fee kids can have their faces painted, get a balloon animal, do crafts, play carnival games, and see a magician.
And finally, before you head home for the day you can visit the ice playground at Samson Mall in Lake Louise Village. The ice slide is sure to be a hit, and your kids can learn about the art and science of ice carving.
If you plan to go there’s a fair bit of parking up at the chateau, but there’s also a shuttle that runs from Samson Mall to the chateau every 20 minutes. Just don’t forget your warm clothes, because with a hat and mitts you can quite happily spend several hours celebrating winter at the Ice Magic Festival.
Although the festival is sadly over for 2013, Snow Days is still on until February 10th.
Robin Farr is a writer, wife, communications professional, speaker and mom. She experienced undiagnosed postpartum depression after her son was born in 2008 and started her blog, Farewell, Stranger as a way of writing herself out of it. In doing so she discovered strength in brutal honesty and the power of community.