Snowcastle, under siege for second year, cancels evening events

Snowking Anthony Foliot watches as the door to his castle is cut open in March 2019
Snowking watches as the door to his castle is cut open in March 2019. James O'Connor/Cabin Radio

Enduring a second successive year of major disruption, Snowking’s Winter Festival on Friday announced all evening events – with the exception of Friday night’s show – are effectively cancelled.

Organizers said no night-time indoor shows from Saturday onward would go ahead, following the advice of the territory’s chief public health officer regarding indoor gatherings where people would be at close quarters.

The festival’s Snowcastle will remain open as usual in the daytime until further notice.

The news came as the coronavirus global pandemic saw the federal government consider limiting inbound flights while advising Canadians to avoid international travel.



Snowking’s Winter Festival is a month-long succession of events mostly held inside a castle of ice and snow built on Yellowknife Bay.

I believe the risk is low but I’m not the chief public health officer, I’m just a guy who’s a bit disappointed.SNOWKING

Laura Busch, a member of the festival team, said organizers were following “the day-to-day advice” of the chief public health officer, implying there was an outside chance some events later in the month may be revived if concerns recede. However, she admitted all evening events were currently considered “effectively cancelled.”

“We heard back from the chief public health officer this afternoon,” Busch told Cabin Radio. “She recommends that, for public safety reasons, we stop all night-time programming.”



Friday night’s show at the castle will go ahead, but only for people who already have tickets. Organizers have been told they are OK to proceed if fewer than 100 people are in the Snowcastle’s great hall, and fewer than 100 tickets for Friday had been sold at the time the chief public health officer gave her advice. A live stream of Friday’s show will also be made available.

‘Not asking people to get all sad for us’

“We’re going to be cancelling all of our big shows,” the Snowking himself told CBC radio’s Lawrence Nayally, adding he understood the reasons behind the advice – and emphasizing the castle would remain open for daytime activities.

“We’re allowed to have people come into the courtyard and still be sliding. Most people will have mittens and scarves on, and the chance of something transferring from people to people is going to be limited,” he said.

The indoor hall will still have an enforced 100-person capacity during the day. “We’ll have a guy counting, a bouncer almost,” Snowking said.

“We are outdoors,” he continued. “I believe the risk is low but I’m not the chief public health officer, I’m just a guy who’s a bit disappointed.

“We’ve got to look after our own first of all, our own children and Elders. We’ve got to make sure everybody stays safe.”

This is the second straight year in which calamity on a grand scale has wrought ruin upon Snowking’s Winter Festival.

In 2019, the festival lost more than a week when extraordinarily warm March conditions caused some of the castle to begin flooding, making it unsafe for visitors.

“We’re not asking people to get all sad for us and make donations,” Snowking told the CBC on Friday. “That’s money better spent on your children to buy some more books if you’re going to be locked up in your house [self-isolating].

“Certainly come and visit us, we are still open in the daytime. We’re not asking you to open your wallets. That’s not necessary.”