When Brent Christensen moved from California to Utah several years ago, he took advantage of the colder climate by building his kids a backyard ice rink … although that rink also included an ice slide, an ice cave, and a 20-ft (6-m) castle-like ice tower. People saw it, they liked it, and the Ice Castles business was born. Since then, Christensen and his team have built their elaborate Ice Castles in a few select American cities every winter. Last month, however, they began construction on a castle in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – their first-ever creation outside the US. We dropped by, to get a first-hand look at the construction process.
Like the company's other castles, the Edmonton Ice Castle is made up of approximately 125,000 US tons (113,398 tonnes) of ice. Some of that ice is in the form of icicles – over one hundred-thousand of them.
Those icicles are grown on site, by continuously sprinkling water over a series of metal racks. Once they're large enough, the icicles are broken off by hand and placed in a lattice-like arrangement with one another, joined together using slush. Another sprinkler system then sprays water over that lattice, covering the linked icicles with a layer of ice.
The process is subsequently repeated, with more icicles and sprayed-on water being added on top of what's already there, until a series of stalactite-like towers are built. From there, workers use a variety of tools to carve in features such as tunnels, and to flatten the pathways between the towers.
Although the finished product is pretty eye-catching in the daylight, it takes on an added element of drama at night. That's when a series of LEDs within the towers light up, changing color in time with a musical soundtrack. Visitors can also check out an ice slide, a fountain, and a fire pit that's built into the ice.
After a month of construction, the Edmonton Ice Castle opened for business on Dec. 30th – work will continue through the winter, though, as more icicles are added to compensate for melting or other damage. It is one of four castles that are being built in North America this winter, and according to Edmonton lead artisan Cory Livingood, no two of them will be exactly the same.
"We do different designs, and they wouldn't look the same even if we were to lay them out the same way just because of the way the ice grows," he told us. "Temperatures and things like that really affect the way it looks. It's been colder here than in Utah, so their castle will grow differently than ours will."
If you're interested in visiting the Edmonton Ice Castle or any of the others, admission information is available via the link below. You can check out our photo gallery for more pictures, plus you can see some aerial footage in the first part of the following video, provided to us by Global News.