BANFF – The Ice Magic festival in Lake Louise has been cancelled and SnowDays will be scaled back as the region tries to keep its dwindling COVID-19 cases low.
Banff and Lake Louise Tourism (BLLT) officials say Ice Magic, the annual international ice carving competition that typically takes place in Lake Louise, will be back in 2022 “better than ever.”
Angela Anderson, BLLT’s media and communications director, said she knows many people will be disappointed by the decision to cancel the long-standing event, but noted keeping people safe is the priority.
“In consultation with public health and the current situation, we had to make the difficult decision to cancel Ice Magic this year,” she said.
Anderson said planning for Ice Magic went through many iterations as BLLT tried to make it work safely.
“Finally, we had to make the decision to cancel as there were just too many moving parts to make it a success this year and ensure the safety of everyone involved and of the community and visitors,” she said.
“We looked at every possibility with scrutiny and we must put the health and safety of our community and of visitors first.”
As of Tuesday (Dec. 29), Banff and Lake Louise had 16 active COVID-19 cases, down from a high of 192 at the end of November. For much of November and into December, Banff was considered one of the COVID-19 hot spots on a per-capita basis in Alberta.
Province-wide, there were 14,785 active cases as of Tuesday afternoon, with 890 people in hospital, including 153 patients in intensive care. The death toll from the virus reached 1,028 in the province.
In Banff, the plan is to continue with SnowDays on Jan. 20-31, however Skijoring competition on Banff Avenue, the Playzone, and Tribute to Craft Spirits have all been cancelled.
While more details will provided into January, SnowDays will include snow sculptures dispersed around town and Hot Chocolate Trail of restaurants and cafés being main components of the annual celebration of winter.
“These are being carefully planned as ways to celebrate winter in Banff National Park in a safe manner,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, the Banff Avenue skating rink at the Banff Community High School field officially opens Wednesday (Dec. 31) at noon.
Residents and visitors must register in advance to skate because there is limited capacity of 40 people at a one time due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions. Registration is free. Learn more and register at banff.ca/banffrink.
Under provincial health directions, no social gatherings are allowed at the rink and everyone must stay two metres away from anyone not from their household at all times.
Shinny and hockey are not permitted, although individuals can stick-handle. Masks must be worn when arriving and departing and when changing into and out of skates. People are encouraged to wear masks while skating.