Here's Why Our Winter Fests Are 'Snow' Fun

Jamborees and festivals in the Northwest Territories

Here's Why Our Winter Fests Are 'Snow' Fun

A kingdom of snow rises from the frozen crust of Great Slave Lake. Festivals celebrating the sun's return from its winter hiatus spring up above the Arctic Circle.

Traditions as old as the land continue to live on: games, feasts and storytelling. All the while, the Aurora Borealis dances gracefully among the stars. Spring is an incredible time to get the true Northern experience. These festivals are like no other.

The SnowKing festival in the month of March on the ice of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

SnowKing Festival

Like magic, a castle of snow and ice appears on Great Slave Lake. The SnowKing invites you to partake in the celebrations. Watch performances from talented artists on a snow stage. See the ice sculpture competition as artisans craft spell-binding creations out of the lake itself. Inside the castle you'll find a café, VIP room and a courtyard that features a giant ice slide. The castle is open from the end of February to the end of March and is guaranteed fun for kids of all ages.

Three Inuvialuit dancers wearing traditional clothing are dancing at the Muskrat Jamboree in Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Muskrat Jamboree

In the Mackenzie Delta, the arrival of spring prompts a euphoric celebration after a long winter. Locals rejoice with family and friends from across the delta—and from further beyond—with a four-day festival in Inuvik. The Muskrat Jamboree is your best bet for getting a glimpse of life in the Western Arctic.

Take part in community events like harpoon-throwing and feel the rush of adrenaline by getting up close to the dog-sled and Ski-Doo races. If you're more the indoor type, there are hearty feasts, and traditional drumming and dancing. And just down the road, you can check out the annual reindeer crossing.

People playing hockey on the ice at the Polar Pond Hockey Tournament in Hay River, Northwest Territories

Polar Pond Hockey Tournament

It began a decade ago to celebrate the spirit of the great game. Today, the North's top pond hockey event draws teams from as far as Vancouver and Calgary to play shinny on the east channel of the Hay River. This isn't some amateur affair—Zambonis have been known to clean off the ice sheets between games.

The rules are simple: four players, no goalies, small nets, no slapshots. And you don't even have to play hockey to enjoy the tourney. Grab a burger and a beverage from the beer garden and dance to live music under the big tent.

People playing a game of tug-of-war on the ice of Great Slave Lake for the Long John Jamboree in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Long John Jamboree

Long johns are a Yellowknifer's second skin. That's why on the last weekend of March, as residents prepare to temporarily shed this layer, they celebrate with a weekend of fun and games on Yellowknife Bay.

The festival packs an ice carving competition, a curling bonspiel, carnival games, and helicopter rides into three days. Make sure you check out the Burn on the Bay—a giant bonfire on the frozen lake. And cheer on your favourite four-legged athlete, at the start of the World Championship Dog Derby. Don't forget your long johns.

The Sunrise Festival in Invuik, Northwest Territories

Sunrise Festival

After 30 days without sun, you'd be glad to see it return, right? Well, the residents of Inuvik sure are. They celebrate their first sunrise in a month in early January with a huge bonfire and three days of fun.

Experience a heart-thumping Inuvialuit drum dance performance by the Inuvik Drummers and Dancers. A live concert is held in the famous Igloo Church, officially called Our Lady of Victory.

Build that mind-body connection at sunset yoga. The city puts on an incredible fireworks display. At the snow park on Boot Lake, check out masterfully-carved ice sculptures and an igloo. And don't miss the giant bonfire, built by the fire department. Yep, you read that right.

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