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Lake Louise Ice Sculptures and the Ice Magic Festival 2022

The Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival is part of Banff’s SnowDays celebration and is always a big draw for visitors to Lake Louise in winter. The Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise is host to a world-class ice-carving competition.

Once you experience the Ice Magic Festival and see the intricately carved Lake Louise ice sculptures, you’ll see why people return to visit this Lake Louise ice festival year after year!

The name says it all. There’s something truly magical seeing the giant blocks of ice being transformed by artists into carved ice sculptures all with snow covered mountain peaks as the backdrop.

Trust me when I say that you will be truly in awe of what the teams in this international ice carving competition can make out of blocks of ice! We have been going for years to see the incredible ice sculptures at Lake Louise and still get excited about going each year.

Lake Louise ice sculptures with mountains in background

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How the Ice Carving Competition at Lake Louise Works

This annual world-class ice carving competition has been held at Lake Louise for over 25 years. The competition is typically held in January as part of the 12-day Snowdays celebration. While the Ice Magic Festival is held over 12 days, the ice carving competition is held over the first 3 days, with winners announced on the first weekend.

The teams come from around the world, but in 2022 it will be all Canadian teams. Each year has a theme, though this hasn’t been announced yet for 2022.

Lake Louise - Ice sculpting during Ice Magic Festival

The competition is held over 34 hours, with the first day spent arranging the blocks of ice and ensuring the structural integrity of the sculpture. Each of the teams that take part in this ice carving competition get 15 ice blocks (each of which is 300lbs). The team is responsible for getting their blocks into position while cutting and re-freezing as they go.

Interestingly, this ice is created in such a way that it isn’t cloudy and isn’t full of air pockets. This article explains the entire freezing process to create the clear ice blocks.

Day 2 of the Ice Magic Festival is when it gets more exciting. The ice carving on day 2 is when the magic happens and when more of the intricate carving happens. The final day of the ice carving is when all the finishing touches are done.

All of this fascinating ice carving takes place on the shores of Lake Louise next to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

father and young girl looking at Ice Sculptures at Lake Louise

Dates for the 2022 Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise

You are in for a treat if you are visiting Banff in January! The 2022 Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival runs for 12 days from January 19 to 30, 2022. The 2022 Lake Louise Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition will take place January 19 to 22, 2022.

How to See the Lake Louise Ice Sculptures

Visitors to Lake Louise can witness this word-class ice carving event. This is one of the best free things to do in Banff, except on the two weekends of the festival. Tickets are required for the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival on January 22, 23, 29 & 30th  for visiting Lake Louise between 10 am and 5:30 pm.

It’s still free to see the ice carvings Monday to Friday and on the paid weekends before 10 am and after 5:30 pm (January 22 & 23 and 29 & 30 are the paid weekends of the festival).

A free Lake Louise shuttle will be provided for ticket holders on weekends from the Lake Louise Park & Ride.

Overnight stays in Lake Louise at the following Lake Louise hotels will include free tickets and the shuttle:

Keep an eye on the Banff and Lake Louise Tourism site for when tickets become available and for more details on the shuttle.

Best Time to See the Lake Louise Ice Sculptures

If you aren’t there for the actual ice carving event, it’s best to see the Lake Louise ice sculptures shortly after they are completed and before it snows. The crystal clear ice sculptures are more impressive before they have a layer of snow on them.

Lake Louise Ice Sculptures from Ice Magic Festival

We recommend visiting mid-week, wherever possible, when it will be less busy. The ice sculptures are also better viewed at night when they come alive with the flood lights shining on them. Definitely better for photographing the detail of the ice carvings!

Ice Magic Festival - Finished ice carving at Lake Louise
Photo Credit: Devaan Ingraham / Banff Lake Louise Tourism

If you can’t make it right away, don’t worry because the ice sculptures at Lake Louise will remain up for some time after the ice carving event. They are typically left on display on the Lakeshore Patio at the Fairmont Lake Louise until they begin to melt or it’s unsafe to leave them up.

girl in front of Ice sculptures - Lake Louise

Can’t get enough of the carving masterpieces? Don’t miss the snow carving happening in Banff during the SnowDays festival.

Banff Snow Carving during SnowDays Festival

What to Bring for Seeing the Ice Sculptures in Lake Louise

When planning a trip to see the ice sculptures in Lake Louise the most important thing to bring is warm clothes! Layers, warm boots, warm mitts and a toque will be key to enjoying your time at Lake Louise.

We also recommend bringing skates, snowshoes or cross-country skis and making a full day out of it. We always love a day out snowshoeing in Banff National Park!

Most of your outdoor gear can be rented in Lake Louise at Wilson Mountain Sports or at Chateau Ski & Snow at the Fairmont Lake Louise. For winter hikes, we always recommend carrying microspikes. We have the Kahtoola Microspikes, which we love and these microspikes for kids.

girl pulling sled in front of Chateau Lake Louise during Ice Magic Festival

Of course, you’ll also want to remember your camera and a tripod for taking pictures of these impressive ice sculptures (the tripod will be a must for those night pictures!). We guarantee you’ll want to preserve the memory of these intricately carved ice masterpieces.

Don’t forget to stop at the Lake Louise ice castle for some pictures as well. The Lake Louise ice castle is put together by the team at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Ice Castle

Other Things to do at Lake Louise in Winter

Unless you are watching the ice carving in action, seeing the Lake Louise ice sculptures won’t be a full days event. There are plenty of other things to do at Lake Louise in the winter.

Some of our favorites are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter hiking or skating on a Banff lake.

father pulling sled and daughter ice skating on Lake Louise

While many of the things to do at Lake Louise happen away from the lake, here are 9 things you can do at Lake Louise in winter without getting back in your car:

  1. Skating on Lake Louise
  2. Walk the lakeshore trail to see the frozen Louise Falls
  3. Afternoon tea at the Fairview Bar and Restaurant
  4. Cross-country ski on Lake Louise
  5. Take a snowshoe or winter hike up to Fairview Lookout
  6. Tobogganing on the hill near the Lake Agnes trail
  7. Enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride
  8. Make a post-skating appointment for the spa at the Fairmont Lake Louise
  9. Cozy up to the ice bar with a hot chocolate
snowshoeing at Lake Louise to Fairview Lookout
Snowshoeing up to Fairview Lookout

Images of Lake Louise Ice Sculptures

Best Places to Stay at Lake Louise

When choosing the best hotel in Lake Louise, choose one that will minimize the amount of driving you need to do. You’ll also want one where you can relax in the evening and even have a soak in a hot tub after being out in the cold all day.

Here are our top choices from these 6 best hotels in Lake Louise:

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

The top luxury hotel in Lake Louise is an obvious choice. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is right on the shores of Lake Louise, it offers guests magnificent views of the massive Victoria Glacier, the Lake Louise ice castle and of Lake Louise itself.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the cleared skating rinks as seen from Fairview Lookout

A sister hotel of the world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise is renowned for its level of luxury. With over 500 rooms, the Chateau Lake Louise has a guest room for all tastes, ranging from a simple Fairmont Room, to 1 or 2 bedroom suites with a lake view, to opulent accommodations on the Fairmont Gold floor.

With the level of luxury you’d expect at a Fairmont hotel, a stay at the Chateau Lake Louise does not come cheap, but we encourage you to view the current deals for the Chateau Lake Louise.

HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre

As a budget hotel in Lake Louise, this Lake Louise hostel has shared accommodation with 4-6 beds per room. But, this Lake Louise hostel also offers private rooms ranging from a basic double bed to rooms with a private washroom. HI Lake Louise hostel has private family-friendly rooms with a loft that sleep up to 6!

best cheap hotels in Lake Louise

Lake Louise Inn

The Lake Louise Inn has a heated indoor pool and hot tubs, perfect after a day out in the snow! There are a wide variety of room options available at the Lake Louise Inn. As a family, we appreciated the ability to rent a 1-bedroom apartment, as the extra space helps everyone get a better nights sleep.

Lake Louise hotels with heated indoor pool

There are two restaurants on-site at the Lake Louise Inn, including Timberwolf Pizza & Pasta Cafe and the all-day Legends Restaurant.

Skiers will love the many amenities available at the Lake Louise Inn during winter, including a free shuttle to the nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort, along with ski storage and a ski tune-up area.

Best Way to Get to Lake Louise

The easiest way to get to Lake Louise in the winter is to drive, but you can expect the parking lots to fill up quickly especially on weekends.

Driving in Banff in Winter
Photo Credit: Noel Hendrickson

Other Options for Getting to Lake Louise:

Getting to Lake Louise from Banff in the winter without a car is best done using the Roam Transit Route 8X: Lake Louise Express. The cost for the Roam bus to Lake Louise from Banff is $20 for adults, $10 for youth and seniors, and children 0-12 years old are free (these are round-trip prices). You can even make reservations.

Getting to Lake Louise from Calgary in the winter without a car is best done using Brewster Express services. The cost for this Calgary to Lake Louise shuttle is $169 for adults and $85 for children (these are round-trip prices).

Other Banff Winter Activities

Banff Planning Resources

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The Lake Louise Ice Sculptures are incredible to see. Whether you take part in the Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise and witness the ice carving, or visit the Lake Louise ice sculptures at a later date. You'll be amazed at what the talented ice carvers can create!

Lake Louise Ice Castle with snow covered mountains
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