Manitobans Flock to the Ice Castles


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Manitobans walk the ethereal corridors of the Ice Castles A. J. Mellor

A new attraction at The Forks in Winnipeg is drawing in visitors of all ages. The Ice Castles are outdoor structures created from over 22 million kilograms of ice and stand as high as 15 meters. The castles are hand-built, too. For weeks, work crews grow thousands of icicles that are hand-placed and sculpted into formation.

Visitors can walk through tunnels and under archways, view fountains and sculptures, sit on a frozen throne, and fly down ice slides. The Ice Castles are particularly spectacular after dark, as the walls are lit up with multi-coloured LED lights.

Utah-based Ice Castles, LLC has built attractions in six locations around North America. However, Winnipeg is only the second city in Canada to host the frozen palaces, after Edmonton.

“As a weather-dependent attraction, we always look for places where the winter temperatures are cold enough to sustain an attraction made entirely from ice,” says CEO Ryan Davis. 

The decision wasn’t entirely based on Winnipeg’s frosty temperatures, though.

“As a city that truly embraces winter, Winnipeg was a natural fit,” Davis adds. “Winnipeg has a wide variety of family-friendly winter activities, and the atmosphere around The Forks makes it an ideal location.”

The Ice Castles are otherworldly, whether by day or night, and crowds have been flocking to The Forks to experience them. It’s hard to imagine, then, the humble beginnings of the towering structures.

Brent Christensen was trying to build an ice cave for his daughter in the front yard of his Alpine, Utah home when he had the idea of spraying a wood frame with water. His daughter referred to the structure as the “Ice Castles,” and the idea expanded from there.

The attraction has grown so popular that the company encourages visitors to buy tickets ahead of time online. Tickets are bought for a half-hour window on a specific day. Standby tickets are sold onsite as well, but traffic into the castles is regulated to avoid overcrowding, so if a given time slot is sold out, people who show up to buy tickets on the spot have to wait and hope for spaces to open up. 

At present, tickets are on sale through February 10 for every day except Tuesdays, when the attraction is closed. However, the season will be extended assuming the temperatures stay low enough.

“Most of our locations will remain open until early March,” says CEO Davis. “But we can’t predict what the weather will do a month out. As we have a clearer picture of the forecast, we can open up additional days and weeks.”

Tickets range in price from $9.95–$15 for children four to 11 and $12.95–$20 for everyone aged 12 and up, depending on the time and date chosen and whether or not visitors purchase tickets in advance. The attraction is free for children under the age of four.

Extra entertainment is also available on the weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays, guests can meet and take photos with enchanted ice princesses from 1:00–4:30 p.m. Later in the day, performers impress audiences with fire-breathing, fire-spinning, and the hula on Fridays and Saturdays from 7:00–10:00 p.m.

The Ice Castles staff strongly urge people to remember that, while the walls of the castles keep the wind away, it is still imperative to dress warmly. The walkways are made of snow and crushed ice and can be uneven and slippery. People with reduced mobility may struggle, as walking through the castles is more like walking on a sandy beach than a trail of compacted snow. Many parents choose to pull young children in sleds.

“Most people will spend approximately an hour inside Ice Castles,” Davis adds. However, he also notes that there is no time limit on how long visitors can stay once they are inside.

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