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!
2023 Update – Unfortunately, we’ve just learned that the Ice Magic Festival has been postponed to 2024. While there won’t be a large ice carving display, you’ll still find local carvers creating magical ice sculptures at some of the hotels.
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
- How the Ice Carving Competition at Lake Louise Works
- Dates for the 2023 Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise
- How to See the Lake Louise Ice Sculptures
- Best Time to See the Lake Louise Ice Sculptures
- What to Bring for Seeing the Ice Sculptures in Lake Louise
- Other Things to do at Lake Louise in Winter
- Images of Lake Louise Ice Sculptures
- Best Places to Stay at Lake Louise
- Best Way to Get to Lake Louise
- Other Banff Winter Activities
- Banff Planning Resources
This post contains compensated links.
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 Banff 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.
Each year has a theme, we look forward to seeing what this will be in 2024.
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.
Dates for the 2023 Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise
Unfortunately, if are visiting Banff in January of 2023 you won’t get to experience the Ice Magic festival this year! The 2023 Lake Louise Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition has been postponed until 2024, with dates to be announced in the summer of 2023.
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 the two weekends of the festival for visiting Lake Louise between 10 am and 5:30 pm. (Postponed for 2023)
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 21 & 22 and 28 & 29 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:
- Baker Creek Mountain Resort
- Castle Mountain Chalets
- Deer Lodge
- Emerald Lake Lodge
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
- Lake Louise Inn
- Mountaineer Lodge
- Storm Mountain Lodge
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.
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!
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.
Can’t get enough of the carving masterpieces? Don’t miss the snow carving happening in Banff during the 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.
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.
Looking for the PERFECT Lake Louise Souvenir?
If you love Lake Louise as much as we do, you’ll want to bring a piece of it home with you. This Lake Louise in Winter illustration by Diana Boyle at Rooftop Illustrations is the PERFECT souvenir!
See more Banff Souvenirs by local artists here.
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.
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:
- Skating on Lake Louise
- Walk the lakeshore trail to see the frozen Louise Falls
- Afternoon tea at the Fairview Bar and Restaurant
- Cross-country ski on Lake Louise
- Take a snowshoe or winter hike up to Fairview Lookout
- Tobogganing on the hill near the Lake Agnes trail
- Enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride
- Make a post-skating appointment for the spa at the Fairmont Lake Louise
- Cozy up to the ice bar with a hot chocolate
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.
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 read our review of the Chateau Lake Louise and to view the current deals by Fairmont.
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!
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.
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.
Other Options for Getting to Lake Louise:
In addition to driving, there are many alternate ways of 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
Found this post useful? Save it or share it with your friends!
Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.