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The Real Banff / Published: Mon, 12/20/2021 - 14:26

How to Make the Most of Ice Magic

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Due to changing circumstances, 2022 Ice Magic has been cancelled.

Winter in Banff and Lake Louise is a little different in 2022. Many adjustments have been made due to COVID-19 to keep people safe and we recommend visiting the Travel Information page for more information before visiting.

A winter sunbeam peeks over the edge of a mountain and catches the ridge of an ice sculpture, illuminating the piece from within. Snowflakes suspended in the air glisten all around you as you pause to take in every intricate detail of the ice carver's piece of art. Perhaps you'll have a chance to see her work right in front of your eyes, transforming a simple block of frozen water into an expression of culture and beauty. Just like the moment, the sculpture is temporary but no less worthy of admiration - it is meant to be savoured simply for what it is. Because in Banff and Lake Louise, winter means more. 

Magical moments like this abound at the Ice Magic event at Lake Louise, part of the annual SnowDays celebration in Banff National Park. And with a bit of planning ahead of time, you can make the most of this magical experience. 

A giant ice sculpture of a queen surrounded by an icy archway lit up in the evening
Devaan Ingraham

What is Ice Magic?

Occurring in January, Ice Magic is a world-class outdoor event that brings Canada's top ice carvers together in the epicentre of Banff National Park - Lake Louise. Nestled between the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the frozen shores of Lake Louise itself, frozen blocks of ice are transformed into an exhibition of artistic expression. This outdoor event is part of the annual SnowDays festival. For even more ways to elevate your visit to Banff and Lake Louise, consider checking out these exciting SnowDays events - from festivals to snow sculptures.  

Tips for a Memorable Visit

Ice Magic is a popular winter event that visitors and locals alike look forward to - and for good reason! This unique experience only happens once a year. Consider visiting midweek to truly appreciate the exhibition at a leisurely and undistracted pace. Monday to Friday visits offer a quieter experience and also offer FREE admission. Remember to dress warmly in weather-appropriate clothing - layers, toques, and mittens are a must! The ice carvers are returning in 2023. 

An ice carver using tools to work on a giant ice sculpture
Devaan Ingraham

One Part of a Whimsical Winter Itinerary

Most Ice Magic visits take a couple of hours to enjoy, which leaves plenty of time to fill your day with other winter activities. Stay a little longer and explore more of Lake Louise and the surrounding area - it's a winter wonderland of outdoor activities suitable for all ages. Whether visiting with family, friends, or that special someone, here are a few ways to spend a morning or afternoon to complement a visit to Ice Magic. Stop by Wilson Mountain Sports in the village of Lake Louise to pick up gear for your activity of choice.  

Cross Country Skiing

Some of the national park's best cross country ski trails are just minutes away from the Ice Magic event. Moraine Lake road is closed to traffic in winter and trackset specifically for cross country skiers, and the historic Great Divide trail (formerly the old 1A Highway) is just across the road. 

A couple cross-country skiing through fresh snow with mountains behind them
Noel Hendrickson

Ice Skating

Ice Magic often coincides with the perfect time of year to lace up a pair of skates. And the wild skating arena doesn't get any more quintessentially Canadian than Lake Louise. Don't miss your opportunity for this once-in-a-lifetime experience!   

Snowshoeing

Some popular summer hiking trails near Lake Louise are also suitable for snowshoeing. Make your way up to the Fairview Lookout for a lesser-seen perspective of Lake Louise. Or, for more of a challenge, make your way up to Mirror Lake via the Lake Agnes trail.  

*Not all summer hiking trails are suitable for winter travel due to avalanche risk - refer to Parks Canada's list of recommended snowshoeing trails for more information.  

A couple snowshoeing through deep snow towards a wintery forest with mountains ahead of them
Noel Hendrickson

Tubing at Lake Louise Ski Resort

If you have little ones in tow or are looking for a more accessible activity, Lake Louise Ski Resort is just a 10-minute drive away and offers family-friendly tubing. Sunny Tube Park is free for kids ages three to five. 

Cozy Up with a Warm Drink

Possibly the best way to end a day full of exciting winter adventures is to snuggle up with a warm treat to warm the soul at the day's end. Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offers several unique dining locales with a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Enjoy an "adult" hot chocolate at Alpine Social or a classic old-fashioned at Walliser StubeDeer Lodge and The Station are also conveniently located near Lake Louise and are great places to indulge at days' end. Reservations are often necessary at all locations. 

A couple sitting at a rustic bar with a glass of wine and a beer
Travel Alberta

More Information

Getting Here

Lake Louise is a 45-minute drive from the town of Banff, located just off the Trans Canada highway. For those without a vehicle, consider taking Roam public transit - the Lake Louise/Banff express route runs several times a day. For travel information during weekends, please see below. 

Weekend Visits

Although midweek visits are encouraged, please be aware of extra considerations if planning to attend on the weekend. Find more information on tickets, shuttles, and Alberta's Restrictions Exemption Program for weekend visitation.  

An ice sculpture of intricate pipes lit up in the evening and glowing
Devaan Ingraham

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Plan Your Stay

Browse and book accommodation and lodging packages with our trip planning tool. To learn about the different types of accommodation available in Banff and Lake Louise, visit our Places to Stay page or Contact Us to speak to a local expert.