Exploring a Magical Ice Castle in Edmonton, Alberta

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


Wandering through an acre-sized ice castle is no longer only possible in a Disney movie — think Elsa’s icy escape in Frozen. The Utah-based company, Ice Castles, started creating these incredible structures in 2009, and for the first time ever, has brought the incredible frozen wonderland to Canada.

I recently had the chance to meet Brent Christensen and Ryan Davies, the architect and CEO of the company, who explained how it came to be and how these incredible structures are created.

Brent’s inspiration for the company began in his own backyard, when he and his kids started playing around with running water and ice. It exploded from there, and soon; he was creating giant castles for the public.

Icicles are grown on custom frames before being fused to the castle

What makes these castles unique, is that instead of being created from blocks of ice, Brent’s castles look like frozen waterfalls or glaciers. They are built with icicles that are sprayed with water to create huge, incredibly strong towers of ice and caves that are filled with icy stalactites. More than 15,000 icicles are used to grow a tower just two feet!

Putting together the castle involves a 10-step process:

  1. Find a location and design a layout for the castle
  2. Lay a foundation of pipes and lights that will go inside the ice towers
  3. Create an icicle farm on custom frames
  4. Harvest the icicles
  5. Fuse the icicles by hand onto the castle
  6. Spray the icicles with water to add height and build strength
  7. Repeat steps 3-6
  8. Let nature (wind, temperature, etc) influence the look of the castle
  9. Carve out pathways in the ice so that it is safe for the public
  10. Open the castle!

I got to explore the castle before it was open to the public and was struck by how much the colour of the ice looks like the blue that I’ve seen in glaciers. Apparently, this is because of how thick the ice becomes. At night, lights that have been buried deep in the ice make the structure glow with all colours of the rainbow.

Visit the Ice Castles website for information on where they are located this year. 

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