Silverthorne ice castle taking shape
Ryan Summerlin November 24, 2011
It’s not quite ready yet, but when it’s finished, artist Brent Christensen’s ice castle in Silverthorne should be a sight to behold.
“I’d rather keep it veiled until it’s done,” he said Wednesday at the site, which is located on the lawn adjacent to the Silverthorne Pavilion.
The ice castle was scheduled to open this weekend, but work is only partially complete. There’s still plenty of work to go to build 10-foot surrounding walls and towers that stretch 40 feet into the sky over three-quarters of an acre.
“The main obstacle right now is the weather,” Christensen said, though he noted the Silverthorne site is significantly cooler than Midway, Utah, where he created the ice castles previously. In the two months the castle stood, it brought in about 24,000 people – a number Christensen expects to far exceed in Silverthorne.
The ice castle is a series of ice towers “organically grown simply by sprinkling water onto strategically-placed icicles,” according to the artist’s proposal. It’s a new feature in Summit County this year.
“It’s warmer than usual this year,” he said. “We’re fighting an uphill battle.”
If weather patterns continue, Christensen’s project may not open on Dec. 3, which is Plan B. It might be delayed further, and he recommended those who are waiting to see it to keep checking back.
When it’s ready for entry, though, Christensen expects it to be majestic.
“Right when you come in, there’s a tunnel and a courtyard,” he said, describing how visitors can choose their way among towers and tunnels made entirely of ice.
“It’s really cool being inside the ice,” he said. “The color – it’s super blue.”
Once it gets cold, the walls that now rise roughly 4 feet off the ground will grow exponentially. The icicles supporting the towers will rise into the sky and the castle will be born. But it’s never finished – at least not until the weather warms again and it begins to melt.
“Finished is the right word,” Christensen said. “It’ll keep growing into March.”
Christensen hired a day crew of local workers and a night crew of mostly Arapahoe Basin employees who come after-hours. They grow anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000 icicles daily – though they can’t put that many to work – that are clipped and moved to become the foundation for other icicles to grow and create the walls and towers. Christensen has a new design each year, and he plans to begin next year’s conceptual design come the new year.
Christensen moved to Silverthorne with his family this year, and the ice castle is his main focus. He keeps it going because he can and because he enjoys being outside. And he’s happy he selected Silverthorne because of its family atmosphere, even though he had the option of going to Breckenridge.
“The more we looked at Silverthorne and talked to them, this was it,” he said, adding that he’s been happy dealing with staff to get the castle going.
Ideally, nighttime temperatures would drop to 5 to 15 degrees, said the artist, because at 20 degrees, ice doesn’t form as quickly. It helps when it snows, too, not because it helps with temperatures, but Christensen uses it as bonding material, somewhat like grout.
Christensen works among the ice whenever weather permits – it’s his full-time job. And though he enjoys the process, he enjoys sharing it with others even more.
“If you can create something people enjoy, that’s the best,” he said. One of his favorite stories of his ice castle experiences was meeting an old Argentinean man who spoke no English.
He visited the ice castle with his fellow senior home residents, Christensen said. They got to chatting, in Spanish, and wandered through the castle.
“He just came alive,” Christensen said, explaining that the man was in a depressive funk. “He was so animated and so thrilled.”
“The elderly really enjoy it,” he added. “They’ve been around awhile. To see something new they’ve never seen before is something unique.”