Since 2011, Utahns have visited a winter wonderland in Midway. This Saturday, Ice Castles opens for the season.
Visitors are drawn in by interactive light and music displays. The design of the castles changes year to year, with 20 to 40 ice artisans tasked with creating structures formed from thousands of icicles. Construction on the castles began in November, and Ice Castles typically opens between Christmas and early January, depending on how many warm days there are during the building process.
With six locations—five throughout the U.S. and one in Canada—Ice Castles CEO Ryan Davis explains how the structures, comprised of more than 20 million pounds of ice, come to life each year.
“All of our ingredients come out of a fire hydrant. We make about five to ten thousand icicles in a day,” Davis said. “Then we place them, we fuse them to ice and we spray them with water, and when they’re sprayed with water they thicken and they grow in mass. So, it’s basically we just hand place the framework that we freeze the ice on, and everything’s made out of ice.”
After a good snow, snowmen and forts can often be seen decorating front yards in Utah. Ice Castles similarly sprung up from the ground, when Davis says his business partner, Brent Christensen, got creative one cold day in Utah.
“He’d moved from California to Utah, so the cold weather was a novelty for [Christensen]. He just started freezing things in his front yard and figured out that he could use icicles and build—fairly quickly—really tall ice formations,” Davis said. “The first place he did it was in 2010 in Zermatt Resort up in Midway at a larger scale, and then I teamed up with him about then, and we just keep growing bigger and bigger.”
If last year’s warm, dry winter is any indication of what to expect in years to come, though, Ice Castles’ cold-reliant operations might require some adjustment. Davis says he’s not sure what has led to the number of warm days, but the more mild weather is something Ice Castles is particularly sensitive to.
“The weather’s always unpredictable, and we noticed that the Midwest seems to be warmer than it has been in the past,” Davis said. “You imagine Minneapolis being really cold, and sometimes it is, but a lot of times it’s been pretty warm in the winter there. Every now and then you’ll have a week with three or four days in the 40s, and then the next week it’s five degrees. The average is still pretty cold, but it seems like there’s more warm days than there has been in the past.”
Ice Castles remains open until the weather warms up, usually around late February or early March. Guests are advised to dress appropriately—wear boots to keep your feet dry during the warmer times of day. You can visit icecastles.com for hours of operation and ticketing information.