Snowcastle commemorated in 25th anniversary book

The grand opening of the 2021 winter garden on the Snowcastle site
The grand opening of the 2021 winter garden on the Snowcastle site. Photo: Bill Braden

In a year without a bona fide Snowcastle, a book has arrived commemorating 25 years of Yellowknife’s finest temporary architecture.

Written by Ryan “Joe Snow” McCord with photos from Bill “Freeze Frame” Braden, the book spends 88 pages documenting how the Snowcastle and Snowkings Winter Festival evolved from a local dads’ endeavour to an international attraction.

McCord said he set out to trace the history of how the Snowcastle is built alongside some of the tales associated with the festival.

“It was a neighbourhood thing for the kids in Old Town,” McCord said of the Snowcastle’s first few years.



“But especially in a place like Old Town, it attracted more and more families and over the years it became more complex.”

The cover of the Snowcastle’s 25th-anniversary book.

Braden said: “The castle starts out as a really rough sketch on a piece of graph paper. It’s just an idea. It’s not even a plan.

“But from there, the team takes it and it becomes this astonishing thing that we’ve come to know and come to marvel at.”

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic meant a typical Snowcastle couldn’t be built. There is no indoor hall and there can’t be any live performances, for example.



Instead, Snowbuddy’s Winter Garden – a large open-air castle courtyard of sorts, with a variety of slides and other attractions – is filling the hole.

Entry is free but by ticket only to control numbers. All tickets for the coming week are sold but extra slots open up in the week of March 14, when most city children are on March break.

“It was interesting this year,” said McCord. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t know how we were going to fill our time building. If we don’t have to build a great hall with a roof on it, what are we going to do with all this time?

“But we definitely managed to fill two months.”

Regular attendees will notice the changes meant some features got more love than usual. The main slide is one example: this year it winds beneath itself in ornate and intricate fashion.

“In the last few years, we’ve just tried to build that as quickly as possible because it needs to be there,” said McCord.

“This year, I had the luxury of spending a lot more time on the slide.”

Braden hopes the book captures what he calls the “dream” of the castle’s annual architectural forays.



“We go down there and we drink it in for all of the texture and the shape and the creativity,” he said.

“We hope the book has that sense of passion and joy that the team brings to it, to craft a few snowdrifts on Yellowknife Bay into this marvellous creation that changes and morphs every year.

“It is a signature of Yellowknife. They give the city something to enjoy, something to celebrate. And I know as part of the team, we’re terribly proud of it.”

The book is available from the store at the winter garden, on the festival website and at the Yellowknife Book Cellar.