Dillon ice castles begin to take shape ahead of planned December opening
DILLON — Dillon’s premier winter attraction is beginning to take shape in Town Park, with dozens of workers chipping away daily to create the 2019-20 iteration of the ice castles.
The castles are returning for a third straight winter in Dillon, one of six locations in North America for the Utah-based Ice Castles LLC. Construction is well underway with bases of ice already stretching well overhead. While there is still quite a bit of work to do, town representatives and construction crews are already anticipating another great season.
“It’s so much fun to watch it take shape as temperatures are starting to cooperate,” said Kerstin Anderson, Dillon’s marketing and communications director. “We’re thrilled to have them back in town and driving close to 100,000 people into the town over the next few months. … We can’t wait to get in there and see what the new features are this year and to welcome everyone to town.”
While there are some new features planned for the attraction on top of past favorites — including an additional slide overlooking a fountain and perhaps even a steam-spewing volcano, if weather cooperates — putting everything together is no easy task.
Site manager Anna Closser said a group of 30 employees have been on-site preparing since September and just turned on the water earlier this month. Before construction begins, the group prepares a detailed layout of the acre-sized plot. And once the weather gets cold enough, they’ll start creating and harvesting icicles — up to 10,000 a day — to build the structures.
During construction, workers hope for the best as far as the weather is concerned. On occasion, temperatures will rise, and workers will have to watch as their day’s work melts away. And while they’re only able to build in freezing temperatures, Colorado also brings some unique challenges to the equation.
“When the weather is warm, it’s not really helpful for us,” said Closser, who’s also helped to build castles in Wisconsin and New Zealand. “And Colorado has a super strong sun, so that affects us, too. We’ll plant our icicles, and they’ll get really fragile because of the sun. It’s something that our Dillon location specifically has to deal with. The 9,000 feet of elevation really throws things off.”
Once the endeavor is completed, the attraction will feature colorfully lit castles ranging from 30 to 55 feet tall to go along with a number of other components including arches, tunnels, crawl spaces and more. Once visitors enter, they’ll be free to choose their own adventure and meander through the park as they please so that everyone gets a unique experience, whether they’ve seen the attraction in previous years or not.
“There’s definitely nothing like this that you’ll ever experience,” Closser said. “A structure that’s almost completely made of ice is such a unique thing, and to slide down an ice-slide is something you don’t get to do every day. So coming to the ice castles is definitely an experience that’s great for the whole family or for friends to come enjoy. There’s just a wonderful kind of beauty to it.”
With tens of thousands expected to view the castles again this year, businesses in the town core should be expecting a bump in visitation, as well. Anderson noted that during the first year of the ice castles, there was about a 26% increase in sales tax revenue from businesses in the town core, which was also maintained throughout the second season. The town expects similar gains this year along with considerable media and marketing value for the town.
“We get a lot of media coverage from the castles, which helps to take Dillon to the top of people’s mind when they’re looking at Colorado destinations,” Anderson said. “We think that it’s just a magical experience, and we love having people come to our town and associate that good feeling with us.”
The castles are expected to open sometime in mid- to late December depending on weather, and presale tickets will be available until Dec. 2 at icecastles.com. Until then, the individuals working to build the castles are already getting excited to share their creation with the rest of the world.
“It’s really nice to see people interacting with it,” Closser said. “Sometimes, whenever I’m having a down day, I’ll just walk into the castle and watch everybody’s reactions to what we’ve built. It’s awesome to see the smiles on kids’ faces and families enjoying it. It’s kind of uplifting for us. We work so hard to build this. We just want to share it with everybody.”
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