Utah ice sculptor's newest castle goes up in Midway

Published: Friday, Dec. 27 2013 4:45 p.m. MST

Workers prepare the Ice Castles for tonight's opening in Midway on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. Built by hand and made from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the Ice Castles are ready to be explored. Carved walking paths lead visitors through towering glacial formations, caverns, archways, and maze-like tunnels. Visitors should expect that the Ice Castle will close around March 1, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

MIDWAY, Wasatch County — The work to transform nearly 20,000 pounds of ice into a glistening, glimmering work of art was in the final stages Friday afternoon.

"Right now it's been really cold, and we think we've got a really good product," artist and Ice Castles creator Brent Christensen said.

Christensen grew up in California but fell in love with building structures out of ice when he moved to Utah about 13 years ago.

"It was just a little bit of boredom, a little bit of curiosity, playing around, and one thing led to another," he said. "Pretty soon we were making ice castles in our backyard."

From that backyard beginning, Christensen expanded, building massive ice castles in Colorado, Minnesota and Utah. He built his last castle in the Beehive State in 2011, a year Christensen said was marked by an unusually warm winter.

"We didn't start building until Christmas Day that year," he said.

That prompted Christensen to move his icy construction projects out of state for the next two winters. He returned to Utah again this year because the long-term forecast called for plenty of frigid temperatures.

"I'm really happy that the weather's cooperating, and it's great to be back," he said.

Christensen bragged that his "icicle farm" — capable of growing up to 20,000 icicles at once — is the largest in the state.

"Actually, I don't know anyone else who grows icicles," he admitted with a laugh.

Christensen's icicles are grown to lengths of up to 3 feet by spraying water on horizontal sections of chain-link fence overnight. About 5,000 are harvested each morning and woven vertically, horizontally and diagonally into a grid pattern. The whole thing is then sprayed with water to build the castle's towers, bridges and other formations.

"We're trying to create a lot more little interactive things," Christensen said of this year's castle. "Little places for people to crawl through and squeeze through. I think people will enjoy it."

Depending on the weather, the castle may continue to grow in size and in height throughout the winter. One tower alone may reach as high as 60 feet, Christensen said, and an ice throne is also being constructed.

Other new additions this year include two water features and color-changing LED lights frozen inside the ice formations. Christensen said all of it adds up to a lot of hard work, but when the crystalline castle is finally open to visitors, he said, it's all worth it.

"I love meeting people and explaining how it works, because, you know, there's a lot of curiosity," Christensen said. "I am still pretty baffled by it sometimes myself."

The Ice Castle will remain open as long as weather permits. Information about the venue can be found at www.icecastles.com.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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