SnowDays is a month long festival celebrating all things snow and ice – and with nearly daily events running from January 10th to February 8th, it can be a bit overwhelming to navigate. However, if you are a fan of good old fashioned block parties, game to try new things and enthralled by the art of ice sculpture these are a few highlights not to miss.
Block Party Basics
Downtown Banff starts to buzz on January 10th, the opening day of the festival. Interpretive displays throughout town such as a First Nations Tipi and an ice climbing wall make a jaunt down Banff Ave even more entertaining; however the highlight without a doubt is The SnowDays Kick-Off Street Party. Running from 5 to 7pm in the 200 block of Banff Ave, the Kick-Off offers live entertainment, fire pits for marshmallow roasting and the best part: the White Winter Long Table Picnic gets neighbours and visitors to sit side by side while enjoying some delicious Alberta BBQ. It pays to arrive early since the first 50 people to show up receive a commemorative SnowDays Toque.
If you miss the Kick-Off Party, SnowDays offers one more chance to invade the streets. Closing out the festival on February 6th will be The Big Bear where street party and terrain park collide for an adrenaline-inducing competition. Between 6 and 9pm, pros will stomp out tricks on a custom designed park of ramps and rails that takes over Bear Street– all to a soundtrack provided by Red Bull Djs as well as some local talent. With food and beverage vendors setting up shop on the block, the $10 ticket gets you access to everything you need for a great night out as well as entrance into the official after-party at the Aurora Nightclub.
Catering to the Novice
Trying new things can be a tad intimidating and since winter sports tend to be gear heavy, going out to try a new winter sport generally involves finding rentals and an investment of time. SnowDays offers a variety of events to make it easy to test the waters with no cost or commitment – warning, trying it once could make you a winter-sport convert!
- Never tried skiing or snowboarding? Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine puts on an event called Slide & Ride, running the weekends of January 17th and January 24th, allowing you to borrow gear from our rental store, The Ski Hub, and with the help of pros, test out a run on a man-made slope right in Central Park, just off Banff Ave. You can experience what it’s like to strap in and shred without committing to a rental or a trip to the mountain.
- Master the ice! If skating isn’t in your skill set, learn with a local expert at the downtown skating rink on January 24th and February 1st from 10-11:30am. The pointers are free but novices do need to come kitted out with skates and a helmet. If you have already mastered skating, head to the Banff Curling Club for their Lean-to-Curl Wednesdays running throughout the festival from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Admission is only $15 and includes instruction and access to sliders and a broom.
Two Kinds of Ice Festival
The Ice Magic Festival and the MEC Ice Climbing Festival devote three different weekends to the wonder of water’s solid form. The Ice Magic Festival runs January 16th to 25th and offers a variety of both free and ticketed events in Lake Louise. Try your hand at ice sculpting at one of many free demos or watch the true artists work at one of the International Ice Carving Competitions. Now in its 20th year, this international competition showcases the incredible talent of ice carvers as they compete in a 34 hour Ice Carving Event. Due to the popularity of this event, tickets for weekend viewing are recommended.
The weekend of January 30th is dominated by the MEC Ice Climbing Festival. The impressive 40ft Banff Avenue Ice Wall draws both gawkers and aficionados and offers activities to entertain either. Experts will be on hand to teach first timers the basics, to facilitate competitions amongst the experienced and the ice gear tradeshow should keep any gear head busy.