Photos, video: Yellowknife’s silver jubilee Snowcastle opens

Snowking welcomes you on grand opening day, 2020. Video: Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Snowking on Saturday opened his castle for the 25th time, delighting a large crowd of his parka-clad subjects on Yellowknife Bay.

Brandishing a sceptre fashioned from a crosscut saw, Yellowknife’s homemade monarch began this year’s winter festival accompanied by youngsters holding flags.

At the stroke of noon, the snow door to the silver jubilee version of Snowking’s legendary snow and ice edifice was cut open and the children led the way inside.


Crowds pouring through the door and were greeted by the Yellowknives Dene Drummers.

It’s the first time the festival has opened in February – barely, on a leap-year 29th day. Last year’s unusually warm March weather forced the early closing of the 2019 festival.

The castle, with its alcoves, slides, and sculptures, is a bit larger for 2020. New for this year, its footprint is angled to keep the building entirely on ice that remains frozen right to the bottom of the bay, just in case spring comes early again. (Part of the castle used to sit on the same floating ice shared by the ice road.)

Another precaution, said festival spokesperson Laura “LaurFrost” Busch, was to book out-of-town entertainment to perform at the start of the month-long festival – not the end – in case things begin to melt.

Entertainment in the Great Hall includes locals Leela Gilday and Andrea Bettger, playing the Cabin Fever Reliever event on March 20. At the Great Melt the following day, Toronto punk band PUP will play with local act PIT! opening.


Wrapping up the festival will be a 25th-anniversary Candled Ice Review featuring many local performers on March 25, the King’s Comedy Night on March 26, and a Rave Castle night featuring DJs Miraj and Puppy on March 27.

Opening the festival at Saturday night Shiver and Shaker was Motherhood, with Great Bear.

The theme of this year’s event is outer space. The castle’s walls duly feature sculpted snow aliens and spaceships.

More: Snowking’s Winter Festival 2020 event calendar

While this is the 25th time the Snowcastle has been built, it hasn’t been built for 25 fully consecutive years. One year, the festival didn’t take place.

All photos on this page: James O’Connor/Cabin Radio.

Snowking and accomplices open the 25th-anniversary Snowcastle

Snowking and accomplices open the 25th-anniversary Snowcastle.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

Snowking shows the large crowd the symbolic saw used during the front door cutting at the opening of the annual festival.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

Guests stream in shortly after noon on Saturday.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

The castle is carefully, lovingly sculpted and decorated.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

Augustus Makohoniuk, almost three years old, tries to grab a large ball of ice securely frozen into the front of the stage in the Great Hall.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

The slide is a hit – with both children and adults.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

(Don’t worry, the adults will let you try the slide soon.)

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

This year’s castle is reoriented to preserve its longevity on ice that remains frozen to the base of Yellowknife Bay.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

Snowking stars in a photo with fans.

Snowking's Winter Festival 2020

The castle will remain open until the last weekend in March (if the weather cooperates).