The warm sun sparkled off the snow bank that soared impossibly high above us – white peaks reaching into the blue sky, tiny footholds climbing its gleaming craggy face. “Snow Mountain,” I said to my four-year-old as we gazed up from the bottom, “looks like fun. Want to climb it?” But he was already halfway up. Build a kid a smooth skating pond, ice slide and snow tunnel and he’ll always pick the snow bank.
After exploring the giant pile for three-quarters of an hour – walking along the top, sliding down curvy snow-pants-worn paths and climbing up again, endlessly – we finally got him on to all the other fun by veering his attention to the cotton candy booth across the way. I’ll admit it, I’m not too proud to bribe.
Silver Skate Festival
Edmonton’s Longest Running Winter Festival
Every year for ten days, the Silver Skate Festival transforms Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park into a magical snow playground. This annual winter tradition now brings 70,000 visitors to this river valley park to celebrate our hardy pioneering heritage, experience local art and play snow sports.
We brought our kids here for the first time this year, to get outside and run around in the snow. We took a hayride, built a wall out of snow blocks (and then knocked it down again), zoomed down the ice slides and climbed around the snow cave. Next year, we’ll bring a sled to pull the kids and make it over to the Heritage Village for blacksmith demos, sled dogs and cooking bannock over an open fire.
Skating on the Pond
In the tradition of Hans Brinker and the silver skates – a Dutch folk tale featuring a speed skating competition – the festival centres on a Kortebaan skating race. As one of the city’s best skating ponds, Hawrelak is a perfect location for this event. In fact, there are lots of winter sports to keep you warm during the festival. You can join in the Edmonton winter triathlon, cold run, snowshoe races and sledge hockey games – or bring your cross-country skis and skates and go on your own.
Fire Sculptures Light Up the Night
Nighttime at the festival is truly magical – the park glows with tiny pixie lights and giant bonfire sculptures – and would make for a really romantic date (hint, hint Honeybear). On the trails after dusk, nomadic storytelling princesses (and other fancy fairy tale characters) twirl among colourfully lit lanterns and glimmering ice sculptures. They’ll lead you to the story-telling tent to write down your sadness, fear and regret, and then they’ll march them through the night to burn them up in a sculpted bonfire – an enchanted ritual to free your heart for love. See? Magic.