In November I Call Him ‘Ice King’

Yellowknife’s Snow King is a well known guy about town. From December through February, he is busy building a huge snow castle on the ice of Yellowknife Bay. In March, the month long Snow King Festival is visited by almost everyone in town. But what does he do in November….when the bay is frozen but there isn’t enough snow to start building? He collects ice, that’s what.

Ice King collects ice for the windows of his snow castle…. about 40 windows in all, in blocks  5 or 6 inches thick and about 2 feet high by 3 feet long. He saws the fresh ice with a giant ice saw and stacks the window blocks carefully to await construction. This year Ice King has a new ice saw, courtesy of Dave Smith, who salvaged it over 30 years ago from the old, derelict, Gros Cap fish plant ice house. The fish plant, located in Devil’s Channel about 80 km south of Yellowknife, operated as a fish processing plant in the 1950’s. Ice was cut in the spring and stored in the sawdust filled icehouse to keep the fish fresh in early summer.

Once the windows have been collected, the Ice King continues sawing for a few days, “just for fun”. He arranges the pieces artistically in “ice gardens”. This is where I usually come in. Every year I spend hours photographing these ice scultpures, trying to capture some of the tiny, frozen universes trapped in the free standing ice.

Now, in late November, the ice is getting too thick to handle easily. Ice King is finished for the year. Long live Snow King.

Ice King saws blocks of ice from frozen Great Slave Lake.

Constant shovelling is required to keep the ice surface smooth.


The ice is about 5 inches thick.

Ice blocks are removed from the water with giant tongs.

The blocks are heavy and slippery.


Some people arrange flowers, some arrange ice.


Blocks are cemented into place with water.

Captured air bubbles create tiny, perfect galaxies.

And up comes the sun, glowing through the Ice King's frozen garden.

Thanks Ice King


About franhurcombphotography

I'm a photographer and writer based in Yellowknife, NWT, 62.5 degrees north latitude. I've been taking photos across the north for over 35 years. Some of my blog content is old....most of it new. My style seems to change on a regular basis, which keeps life interesting. Enjoy.
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3 Responses to In November I Call Him ‘Ice King’

  1. ken miller says:

    Beautiful photography. I used to live in yellowknife in the mid 70,s.

  2. Shawna says:

    Great post Fran. Cool to see the window harvesting that the snow king does!

  3. Pingback: Album Release! | Ryan McCord

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