Silverthorne's Ice Castle fared well during the Christmas and New Year holidays, though artist Brent Christensen has been feeling the ripple effect of the lean snow season.
He said ticket sales at Silverthorne's new attraction were at or slightly exceeded those during New Year's weekend in Midway, Utah, where the castle was previously located.
He estimated approximately 1,000 visitors on Friday and roughly 800 on Saturday, even given the extremely windy weather.
"I was surprised we had as many people as we did ... on such a vicious day," he said. "Given we had a late start, this meets my expectations."
Nonetheless, the artist has high expectations for himself, the castle, and its new location.
"I've had to reconcile what I want it to be with people being happy," he said, explaining that visitors so far don't notice the differences and shortfalls he sees in his own work.
In fact, visitor responses have been positive, he said.
"Once people go in, they're happy with it," he said. "Sometimes, you can't picture from the outside what it's like inside."
Silverthorne town manager Kevin Batchelder's son has been through, reporting that "it's interesting" and encouraged the rest of the family to go.
Silverthorne finance director Donna Braun said the town is pleased with the visits thus far.
"Of course, they'd love to see more and more people," she said, but added that Silverthorne is still excited to have a different offering for visitors.
"It's unique and hopefully it's something entertaining, especially with the dry weather. It gives people another option to do something here," she said.
Town spokesman Ryan Hyland said more than 6,000 people have visited so far, with many reporting they made the trip to Silverthorne specifically to see the ice castle.
"It's generated really good exposure in Denver and the Front Range through the media and that's really good for our town and businesses," he said.
The ice castle is a series of ice towers "organically grown simply by sprinkling water onto strategically-placed icicles," the artist wrote in his proposal. He will use roughly 3 million gallons of water to build the castle, using it to grow between 4,000 and 8,000 icicles daily. Though he and his crew can't install that many each day, they're clipped and moved to become the foundation for other icicles to grow. Eventually, the design is meant to have 10-foot walls with 40-foot towers.
So far, Christensen has experienced impediments from lack of snow (he needs snow to mix as a sort of mortar to build the structure) to warmer-than-usual temperatures.
This week, he foresees another uphill battle with warm days in the forecast. Cold nights help him maintain the castle, but makes it tough to grow the structure.
Snow also helps add a dynamic look to the structure.
"It has a pretty effect to the castle when you get a layer of snow on it. It gives it a soft appearance," Christensen said.
So, Christensen is among the many in Summit County keeping their fingers crossed for winter weather to become more wintry.
"The more snow in the mountains, the more traffic the mountains are going to get in general," he said, adding that it's a tricky balance because snow on the slopes brings people to the area, but limited snowfall means people are looking for activities other than skiing or riding.
Christensen sounds hopeful when he says there's plenty of winter left to build his dream design. With roughly double the amount of time available to build and show the ice castle and for word to spread now that it's located in Silverthorne, he still anticipates exceeding the 25,000 tickets sold in Midway.
His proposal included a conservative estimate for growth of roughly 5,000, with town profits between $8,000 and $20,000 - estimates Christensen still thinks will become reality.
"By and by, we'll end up with a huge increase over last year," he said.