With less than three weeks until a chainsaw ceremonially bursts through the Snow Castle’s frozen outer wall, opening the door to Snow King’s kingdom for the month of March, the build team is on schedule, pouring snow and cutting ice on a bright, frigid Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s getting to a point where we’re starting to count the days,” says Snow King’s chief lieutenant Sir Joe Snow (aka Ryan Mccord) during a mid-afternoon coffee break in the World Headquarters shack behind the castle. “I think we got 19 days left or something. We’re getting to that point where we’re starting to budget our time a little bit, but I think we have lots of time for the stuff we have to do.”
The design for this year’s castle is a giant pentagon, with the great hall forming the bottom of the shape while four walls branch out and meet up, diamond-like, to enclose the courtyard.
“The courtyard will be much bigger than last year’s, with more of a play area in it,” says Joe Snow. A smaller pentagon-shaped tower is planned for the courtyard’s centre, with a two-lane, side-by-side slide (for racing, perhaps). The whole premise is getting jazzed up by a team of carvers doing finely detailed arches and faux-brickwork. And the week before the castle opens, teams from Argentina, Alaska, the Yukon and perhaps Germany, will be carving monumental snow sculptures in front of the castle as part of Snow King’s Second Annual International Snow Carving Competition.
The biggest change to programming this year is the March Break Snowkademy: kids aged 6 through 12 can take part in two three-day snowcastle building camps over March Break, “led by Snowcastle builders Joe Snow and Avalanche Kid.”
On the music entertainment side, “we have handpicked performers that will blow the roof off the castle and get everyone moving,” says Snowstorm Sally (aka event coordinator Janna Graham). Along with a bevy of local acts, throughout March, Snow King is bringing in groups from out of town, including:
Quique Escamilla, a Juno-winning, Mexico born folk singer;
Samantha Martin and Delta Soul, a blues and soul band out of Toronto;
Gadjo Collective, a 5-piece gypsy jazz group from Edmonton;
The Foghorn Stringband, an old-time string band from Portland, Oregon;
Soda Pony, a rock duo from Whitehorse.
It all kicks off on the first of March with the door cutting ceremony.
“Nobody can tell exactly where the door’s going to be, there’s a big white wall,” says Snow King (aka Anthony Folliot). “So there’s talk of having a kind of 'pin the tail on the door' you put your name on a ribbon and tie it to a nail and stick it in the wall. And if the saw plunges your nail out, or the first cut comes out to the closest nail, there’s a prize.”