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Ice Sculptures vs. Heatwave: A Chilly Tale with a Warm Twist at Ice Magic Festival

Record-breaking warm temperatures have forced Banff & Lake Louise Tourism to remove the ice sculptures on display at the Ice Magic Competition

The Ice Magic Festival is one of Alberta’s most beloved winter events. 

Ice Magic comes to life in Lake Louise at the Fairmont Chateau, where many incredibly detailed ice sculptures are displayed. 

For select weekend evenings in January and February, ice sculptors from around the world showcase their talent in the Ice Magic Competition

Festival goers can watch skilled artists bring their masterpieces to life. 

Ice Magic features ice sculptures of many different sizes, but many are quite large.

On average, small to medium-sized ice sculptures take many hours to complete. 

But the larger ice sculptures can take several days or even weeks to finish!  

An Unwanted Guest

Everyone was looking forward to Ice Magic this year because the event hasn’t been held since 2020 because COVID shut it down. 

Ice Magic Competition winner 'It's not about the destination, eh?' by Benjamin Rand & Kevin Roscoe | Banff & Lake Louise Tourism
Ice Magic Competition winner ‘It’s not about the destination, eh?’ by Benjamin Rand & Kevin Roscoe | Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

But there was an unwelcome guest at Ice Magic: unseasonably warm, record-breaking temperatures. 

Due to the warm weather, Banff & Lake Louise Tourism made the difficult decision to remove the ice sculptures in Lake Louise. 

“All have melted beyond repair. Ticket-holders impacted by this have been contacted by email,” wrote the tourism department

Last month, 38 communities across the province broke temperature records, including the Bow Valley.

On January 29, Banff reached 10.7 degrees Celsius (°C), breaking the previous record of 10.6°C set in 1931.

A day later, the town hit 10.4°C, breaking the previous record of 10.0°C set in 1962.

Temperatures last December were about five degrees warmer than usual, marking Banff’s sixth warmest December on record.

Ironically, the record-breaking warm spell was right on the heels of a record-breaking cold spell in mid-January. It’s a taste of what’s coming as our changing climate produces more extreme weather events. 

Alysa Pederson with Environment Canada believes the weather this season is associated with El Niño.

“Generally, we get a warmer and drier pattern in an El Niño year, and this year, we have a very strong El Niño in place,” said Pederson.

But scientists claim our warming earth has made El Niños more intense since the 1960s, leading to more extreme weather events.

Warmer temperatures left festivalgoers and ice sculptors alike heartbroken. 

Thankfully, the ice sculptures were completed before the warm spell came in and judging took place before the sculptures were removed.

2024 Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition Winners:

1st Place: It’s not about the destination, eh! – Benjamin Rand & Kevin Roscoe

2nd Place: Blissaire Love Triangle – Ross Baisas & Sebastien Therrien

3rd Place: Good Fortune – Cliff Vacheresse & Steve Buzak

Public Choice: It’s not about the destination, eh? – Benjamin Rand & Kevin Roscoe

Carvers Choice: Who’s Luring Who? – Tom Pitt & Corby Pearce

Benjamin Rand & Kevin Roscoe both won the competition and earned the Public Choice award, voted on by the public. 

The talented duo’s ice sculpture titled ‘It’s not about the destination, eh?’ featured a moose riding a wave on a kayak in true Canadian fashion. 

Rand and Roscoe are American sculptors who know how to play to our Canadian hearts!

Ice Magic ended sooner than planned, but the effort artists put into their sculptures wasn’t wasted.

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