Towering ice castles set to rise at The Forks this winter – Manitoba

Castles of icicles will grow from the ground at The Forks this winter.

Utah-based Ice Castles is bringing their ice artisans to Winnipeg to build towering structures of frozen water surrounding coloured LED lights, to create a winter fantasy land.

“It kind of feels like being in a glacier, or going into some ice caves, or being in like Narnia,” said founder Brent Christensen.

Christensen, who is originally from California, got the idea after he and his family moved to Utah 17 years ago. Finding novelty in the cold winters, he built an ice fort for his kids using a wooden structure coated with ice.

“And it was massive — there was a 20-foot luge coming down one side,” he said. “And when it crumbled in the spring, all the wood was tangled up in the ice and it splintered and the yard was a mess.”

Christensen began thinking of ways to make a structure out of ice without using any kind of frame and came up with a method of creating icicles and spraying them with water to create tall spires reaching as high as 15 metres.

“We say that we build them but really, to say that we grow them is more accurate because our building material is icicles and spraying water.”

They string out the lights beforehand and the ice grows up around the lights.

This is the first time Ice Castles, which has set up displays in Edmonton the past two years, has come to Manitoba.

Christensen says the designs vary depending on where they are, but there are many common features, particularly the slides.

Ground-up ice is spread on the floors to create a gravel-like surface to walk on and there is carpet at the top and bottom of the slides, which are enclosed.

“We haven’t had injuries on the slides,” Christensen said.

The castles, which will be built at The Forks near the Esplanade Riel, are expected to open in late December.

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