Yellowknife’s Snowcastle opened on Tuesday in a ceremony attended by dozens of residents eager to celebrate a sign that post-pandemic normality may be returning.
The Snowcastle, which will be open six days a week (not Mondays) from now until March 27, is able to open this year with few, if any restrictions related to Covid-19. Masks are not mandatory but recommended.
The castle’s opening – under a pristine blue sky, on the day the NWT lifted many travel restrictions – took place with something of a pre-pandemic feel.
Children raced into the castle after Snowking performed his ritual demolition of its front door at noon, to be confronted by not one but three slides amid a wealth of artwork and snow sculptures. This year’s theme is “up in the sky,” resulting in a castle adorned with snowflakes and birds.
“There are so many people. We have a crowd again,” said an overjoyed Shauna “Captain” Morgan, one of the staff behind Snowkings Winter Festival.
“We certainly want everyone to stay safe. People are welcome to come and wear masks, we encourage that. But we were able to lift many of the restrictions we thought we might have to impose.”
This is the 27th Snowcastle. Organizers will hope they can look back on this one with fonder memories than other recent iterations.
The 2020 castle was struck by the pandemic’s onset midway through its month-long run, forcing its early closure. In 2021, there was technically no castle at all as organizers instead built a “winter garden” designed to adhere to public health restrictions. (The 2022 design borrows heavily from the winter garden in some aspects, but the word “castle” has returned. This year there is a small covered structure that was absent last time around.)
In 2019, pre-pandemic, the castle fell victim to an extraordinarily warm March as Yellowknife temperatures hit 8C. The festival closed more than a week early as the structure began to melt and flood.
Find admission information and this year’s event schedule on the festival website.