Family Guide to the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise

by - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Ice Magic Festival is an annual international ice carving competition at Lake Louise with fun for all ages. Observe master ice artists and snow sculptors in action, skate around an ice castle with Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, learn to snowshoe, and enjoy the boundless recreational activities of the area.

When to Go

If you're a festival seeker... The official Ice Magic Festival dates are January 18-28, 2018 with several events taking place Thursday to Sunday each week (details below).
  • Tickets are required to view the ice sculptures and attend events in the ice carving competition area at the Lake Louise Lake Shore on Saturday, January 20/27 and Sunday, January 21/28 from 10 am - 5:30 pm. Purchase tickets for 1 hour time slots here. Ticket holders get VIP access to the shuttle buses.
  • Peak times are 11 am - 3 pm. Stay in Lake Louise if possible, so you can get an early start and miss the lineups.

  • It's free to view the ice sculptures on weekdays and Saturdays/Sundays before 10 am or after 5:30 pm. 

  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least busy days, but there are no events on these days.
If you just wanna see the Ice Castle and ice sculptures... go now or in February to avoid the crowds! The ice castle is up from early January until mid March (weather dependent) each year. During the festival, it's free to view the ice sculptures from Monday-Friday, or January 20-21 & 27-28 before 10 am and after 5:30 pm.
Meghan Ward of Adventurous Parents says, "I've found the best time to go is in the evening when you can drive up to the lake yourself and view the completed sculptures... they light them up beautifully, it's really cool."
Skating around the Ice Castle at the Ice Magic Festival

Ice Magic Festival Events

Families will enjoy skating on Lake Louise, learning to snowshoe, sledding, and checking out the ice and snow sculptures. We have never purchased tickets as there are so many free events! Go on January 18 & 19 to watch the ice carving competition for free!

  • International Ice Carving Competition Days 1 & 2: January 18 & 19, 8 am - 10 pm. Observe 10 teams of two transform 300 pound blocks of ice into art!
  • Ice Magic Sculpture Viewing is free on weekdays - January 22-26, and Saturdays and Sundays before 10 am and after 5:30 pm.
  • Snowshoe Games and Activities led by Parks Canada - January 20 & 27, 10 am- 3 pm.
  • Snow Magic Sculpture Viewing is free on January 26 & 27 (all day) and January 28 & 29 before 10 am and after 5:30 pm.
  • Ice Skate on Lake Louise. Skate around an ice castle on one of the world's most beautiful outdoor skating rinks. Bring your own skates and helmets or rent from Chateau Mountain Sports (at Chateau Lake Louise). 
Canoe With Three Warriors by Team Sakha, Russia

  • Ice Carving Demo at Lake Louise Ski Resort (in front of the Lodge of the Ten Peaks). One ice carver will race the clock to carve a masterpiece in just one hour. Friday, January 19 from 2:30-3:30 pm. 
Ice Castle at the 2016 Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise

Tickets are required for events in the ice carving competition area (Lake Louise Lakeshore) on Saturday, January 20/27 and Sunday, January 21/28 from 10 am - 5:30 pm.  See details here.

OTHER EVENTS (not included in Ice Magic Tickets)
  • Guided Snowshoeing Trips & Brewster Sleigh Rides: For rates and information, contact Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
  • Torchlight Dinner and Ski at Lake Louise Ski Resort. More info here.
Ride the sleigh to majestic ice falls!

Getting There

WEEKENDS - Plan to take the free shuttle bus

Early birds can park right at Lake Louise. I recommend staying in Lake Louise, or nearby Field, so you can get an early start. 

After 9:30 am, expect to park at Samson Mall, Lake Louise and take the free shuttle bus up to the lake. The shuttle bus leaves every 20 minutes starting at 10:30 am and the last bus to Samson Mall departs Lake Louise at 6 pm. Please note that pets are not allowed on the shuttle.

After 3 pm, you can often get parking at the lake, but be prepared to take the shuttle bus if the parking lot is still full (i.e. pack a backpack with everything you need for the day).

WEEKDAYS - Drive to the lake

Park at the lake on weekdays or ski up from Samson Mall!


It's possible to hike, snowshoe, or cross country ski to Lake Louise from Samson Mall, but note that there's a fair bit of elevation gain to the lake!
  • Skiers can take Tramline Trail: 4.8 km one way with 195 metres elevation gain. For more information, see The Best Beginner Cross Country Ski Trails in Lake Louise. Uphill is not recommended for Chariot towing.
  • Snowshoers and hikers should take Louise Creek Trail: 2.8 km one way with 195 metres elevation gain. Please stay off ski tracks for everyone's safety. 
Cross country skiing Tramline Trail, Lake Louise

What to Bring

Warm clothes are a must! Bring skates and helmets as the skating at Lake Louise is magical!

If you're able to drive up to the lake, bring a sled/stroller and snowshoes or cross country skis! There's a great tobogganing hill beside the Chateau and several beautiful winter trails to explore.

Pack snacks or dine at Chateau Lake Louise.

Ice Sculpture at Ice Magic Festival, Lake Louise

Where to Stay

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Deer Lodge, Mountaineer Lodge, Baker Creek Chalets, Storm Mountain Lodge, and Castle Chalets provide free Ice Magic tickets with your stay. See details here.

Other options in Lake Louise include Lake Louise Inn, Lake Louise Hostel, and the Post Hotel.

Great Divide Lodge is an economical option 11 minutes away; the town of Field is only 20 minutes away and has several bed and breakfasts and condos to choose from; and Banff's hotels are 40 minutes away.

See my Where to Stay page for more information.

Snow much fun at Lake Louise!

Share your photos with hashtag #playoutsidegal so I can see how much you had at the Ice Magic Festival!

Activities in the Area

Skating on Lake Louise

Snowshoeing to Fairview Lookout, Lake Louise

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  1. I love that they have Snow Magic Sculpture Viewing! The whole family would love this!!


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