Story by Jody Robbins
BANFF, ALBERTA — Residents of the Great White North don’t just hibernate when the thermometer plunges. We celebrate our frozen assets — Canuck-style, donning our toques, Sorels and parkas, before partying in the powder. Playing host to the inaugural Snow Days Festival, Banff National Park is celebrating all that’s wonderful about winter. This month-long festival (January 14-February 12) gets the adrenaline going with invigorating performances and activities, promoting our coolest season.
Mountain Adventure Festival
The festival kicks off at noon this Saturday, with free activities, such as curling at the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and gliding across the town’s largest and newest outdoor skating rink, at the Banff Community High School (330 Banff Ave.). For those who’ve always wanted to try ice climbing, this is your opportunity. Spidey-senses are sure to be tingling, as you try your hand scaling a wall in downtown Banff, during the inaugural weekend.
All that activity works up an appetite, so carb-load with a pancake breakfast the YWCA on Sunday. It’s free, but donations will be accepted, in support the Safe House campaign, helping women and children escape domestic violence.
Want to hob-nob with the rich and famous? Head to Sunshine Village and the Fairmont Banff Springs, January 12-15, for a glimpse of America’s royalty. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Alec Baldwin, and other Hollywood stars can be found skiing and tobogganing, while raising millions of dollars to protect North American waterways during the Fairmont Banff Springs Celebrity Sports Invitational. Tickets for the gala dinner and concert ($500 per person) are available through The Fairmont Banff Springs by calling 403-762-1710, or emailing Angela.Gray@fairmont.com.
Ice Ice Baby
Enjoy twice the ice in Lake Louise during the double weekend Ice Magic Festival. At the 34-hour international ice-carving competition, January 20-22, 12 teams of professional ice carvers sculpt one-of-a-kind works of art out of 300-pound blocks of ice, based on the theme “WordPlay: Where language comes out to play.” How they interpret this theme is up to them, but one things for certain, you won’t want to find any tongues stuck to these works of art.
Take the kids to view the intricate carvings of frozen art during Little Chippers, the following weekend. Families won’t want to miss the opportunity to crawl through ice tunnels, down ice slides and sampling ice mini golf, at the new Ice Playground. There’s also skating on the lake and a Cozy Corner Kids Indoor Activity Centre. Did we mention all children’s activities are free?
The Good Old Hockey Game
Grab your stick, polish your puck and ‘Take It To The Street’ in a ball hockey tournament unlike any other. Guaranteed to stop traffic, this four-on-four shinny is played under the majestic shadow of Cascade Mountain, smack-dab on Banff Ave., February 11-12. You’ll want to register early ($367.50 per team) for the round-robin tournament.
Those not of the winter warrior ilk can still enjoy this winter wonderland, stimulating the senses with live theatre performances, exhibitions and chilling storytelling by Parks Canada Heritage Interpreters. Tune into the Jim Cuddy Band ($50) at the Banff Centre, this Sunday, or on Saturday night catch “When Winter was King,” featuring The Wardens, while reviewing Banff’s history from the gigantic wall projections of past winter festival photos.
Being in a land of frozen lakes and icy forests, you might forget something hot lies beneath the surface. Soak away any potential winter blues at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. While it’s not on the official Snow Days’ itinerary, your frosty cheeks and sore muscles will thank you.