Lake Louise Ice Sculptures: What You Need to Know About Ice Magic

The Husqvarna roars again. My daughter, wide-eyed, looks at me in awe. Cozy inside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, we peer through the frosted window panes, watching 24 ice carvers hoist their weapons and create whimsical works of art out of 300 pound blocks of ice. This is how we were first introduced to Lake Louise ice sculptures at the Ice Magic Festival held in Banff National Park, Canada.

Note: Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Ice Magic Festival has been cancelled.
Everything you need to know about the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival
Caught in the act!

Lake Louise Ice Festival

Every January, we try to hit Lake Louise, to take in their internationally acclaimed Ice Magic Festival. We first began doing these winter weekend away when our daughter, Eve, decided at the ripe old age of six, she’d never ski again. When that happened, it hardly seemed worth the cost and effort. But we couldn’t hibernate all winter. Luckily, the Lake Louise Ice Festival offers so many outdoor activities, we knew we could have an exhilarating weekend away without planks and poles.

And so, toting toques, boots and skates, off we barrelled over to Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to take in their infamous ice festival that runs every January. Now don’t let this brand (Fairmont) synonymous with luxury and grandeur put you off. It’s more family friendly than you think.

Ice Magic Festival Lake Louise
Ice Magic is an easy way to get kids outdoors and interested in art.

Here, children are treated as important guests with their own check-in area and menu options besides burgers and fries. There’s usually lots of family programming during Ice Magic Festival weekends, too.

Even the loudest (yet most important) family members are welcome. For an additional $25 our dog Buddy, could’ve joined in the fun. But sometimes you need a break from the kids to really relax, so we pawned off the pooch for the weekend.

Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise
Lake Louise really is that turquoise.

Ice Castle

The big draw at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the ice castle they erect each winter. It depends on snow conditions, but their ice castle – that sits directly upon Lake Louise is usually up by Christmas. And for sure they make it lasts until the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival takes place. Truth be told, it usually lasts well into April.

Even if you’re not a hotel guest, you can bring your skates and hockey sticks to play on the ice. Obvs, the ice castle is the perfect backdrop for family photos and Instagram pics! If you don’t have skates, they rent them inside the Chateau and you can score cross country skis, too. Must bring your own hockey sticks and pucks though.

kids skating lake louise
Childhood fantasies come to life

Rippling around the frozen lake, Eve darted in and out of the ice castle, pausing only to roast marshmallows over the open fire pit. If you’ve got a kid still hooked on Frozen, it’s a dream come true.

Winter Lake Louise
Roaring bonfires help warm up cold digits.

While Dad amused himself at the bar, we gals snuggled under warm blankets, and toured around the Lake on the horse-drawn Brewster Sleigh Ride. For a change of scenery, we romped around the Ice Playground, located at the shopping plaza in the village of Lake Louise. We tried our hand at ice mini golf and cruising down the ice slide. And as you can see, warming up after being outdoors for so long is never a problem. Some years, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise even has an ice bar outside.

mother and daughter hot chocolate
No such thing as too much whipped cream.

Ice Sculptures

But the reason we came (in theory at least) was for the ice carving competition and to view the finished product: phenomenal ice sculptures.  Ice Magic is one of the most prestigious ice carving festivals in the world. It’s truly international in scope, with 24 ice carvers from around the world descending upon Lake Louise.

Each carver gets their own 300 pound block of ice and 48-hours to complete a masterpiece. In addition to the International Ice Carving Competition, theres a One Hour, One Carver, One Block speed event. That one is crazy.

lake louise ice sculptures
An artist at work. (Photo credit: Kelly MacDonald_

Ice Magic Festival

Each year the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival takes place mid to end of January. In 2020 it’s running January 15-26. You can watch the ice carving competition the first weekend or view the finished sculptures after that first Sunday. It’s free to attend Monday to Friday, and on the weekends if you arrive before 10 am or after 5:30 pm. If you’re visiting during peak hours on a weekend, you’ll need to nab tickets.

It takes an entire team to make these masterpieces. (Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism)

Don’t worry if you can’t make it out during the actual Ice Magic Festival, the ice castle and sculptures stay for the duration of winter, making it a worthy family destination. Even in April you’ll likely be able to spot some of the sculptures..

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lake louise ice magic festival

Have you ever been to Lake Louise for their Ice Magic Festival? Would you like to go?

Want to hear more? Let’s connect on Facebook or Tweet me: @Jody_Robbins


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6 thoughts on “Lake Louise Ice Sculptures: What You Need to Know About Ice Magic”

  1. Thanks for the little reminder that we NEED to take our kids to this festival! Just booked our room and will be heading out there this weekend. They are going to go crazy skating in that ice castle!

  2. Leigh McAdam (@hikebiketravel)

    I had planned to go to the festival last year but you need to go EARLY if you don’t want to be on a shuttle bus. We were in the area but decide against going because it was NUTS at the turnoff to Lake Louise. You’d be fine first thing in the morning though.
    Very cute photos.

      1. Jeanette Carvell

        Hi Jody.
        My husband and I are planning to go during the first week. Will it be crowded enough that we will have to take a shuttle bus, or is midweek more manageable.
        Regards Jeanette

        1. It does get crowded on the weekends. I suppose it depends how early you get there. Mid-week is definitely quieter. Hope you have a great time!

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