The Snow Castle of Yellowknife

One of the great things about living in Yellowknife over winter is the Ice Castle that pops up on the lake. Tony, better known as the Snow King, starts building it beside his houseboat in November, and it is finished at the end of February. The Ice Castle is open for the entire month of March, where it functions as an art gallery, performing arts space and the hottest dancing spot in town, hosting theatre, rock bands, classical music and puppet shows and performances for kids. Every year, the Snow King and his crew build a different structure. Tony tries to fit up to 350 folks at once into a space smaller than most peoples’ houses. In preparation, building codes require him to create a fire escape, which is kind of cute, as it begs the question: how can a building made entirely of ice and snow catch on fire? There’s an ice bar and coffee shop (iced coffee on the menu, no doubt – ED). The entrance can be at least a foot below the ice level of the rest of the lake, as the ice sags a bit under all that weight. Inevitably this leads to some interesting cracks in the walls. Built directly on the frozen Great Slave Lake, it serves as a performing arts theatre for a whole month. One year, a Norwegian artist performed in the castle with instruments made entirely of ice. Another year featured a Burrrlesque performance.

The space in wonderful with its ice floor, clear ice windows, carvings everywhere and any manner of interesting nooks and crannies. The outside is equally wonderful, with some incredible snow sculptures, an ice garden, as well as a stack of ice blocks cut from the lake, left to burnish all winter in the fierce winds. I like the royal touch of the flags flying briskly overhead as well. Visiting the Snow Castle of Yellowknife, and having an audience with the Snow King himself? Well, that’s one for the bucket list.

– Words and Photos by Tandi Wilkinson, a medical doctor and blogger based in Yellowknife.

You can learn more about the Snow King here.

Great Canadian Bucket List