Ice Castle 2018 opens, capping many weeks of cold, hard workBy JOHN KOZIOL
Sunday News Correspondent January 05. 2018 8:02PM
If you goWhat: Ice Castle 2018
Where: Hobo Railroad, Route 112, Lincoln
When: Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 9 p.m.; Fridays from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sundays noon to 8 p.m.
Tickets: Online at icecastles.com, $13.95 for ages 12 and older and $9.95 for children 4 to 11. Walkup/standby tickets are $21 and $16, respectively. In addition, parking is $7 to $10.
Tips: Wear boots. Take pictures, but leave tripods and lights at home. Bring a sled to pull kids through the castle, rather than trying to push a stroller.
LINCOLN -- While Mother Nature contributes the magic, for five winters a group of ice experts have used their creativity and some solid science to build a mighty ice castle from tiny icicles.
Now open for the season at the Hobo Railroad and scheduled to operate into March, the Lincoln Ice Castle is the direct descendant of one man's quest to give his daughter a unique gift.
In 2008, while making an ice cave in his family's backyard in Alpine, Utah, ice sculptor Brent Christensen discovered a way to "grow" icicles. That technique, which is patent pending, was rapidly adapted to create icicles as the building blocks for walls, towers, and eventually, an entire ice castle.
Christensen later used what he learned to open seasonal ice castles, first in the west and Midwest. His company, Ice Castles LLC, opened its first ice castle on the East Coast at Loon Mountain in 2013.
The popularity of that ice castle led to a move the following year to a much larger space at the Hobo Railroad. Next winter, the ice castle will be in an even larger spot in nearby North Woodstock.
Both locations are close to Interstate 93, which is a good thing since the majority of their visitors come from at least two hours away.
For four of the five winters that there has been an ice castle in Lincoln, Tayler Christensen, who is Brent's nephew, has been the build manager, leading a crew of 20 women and men.
Last October, the crew began working on the current ice castle, which starts with plumbing for the castle's 79 towers, and growing icicles on racks. The icicles are "planted" using water as mortar, and are then sprinkled from above to coat them with additional ice and grow the structure.
For three weeks, about 10,000 ices are grown and planted every day, said Christensen, eventually turning into a 25-million pound structure with towers reaching 25 feet tall and walls nearly as thick.
Once the castle has been filled out to its one-acre footprint, Christensen and his team spend a week doing what he calls the "break out," in which chainsaws and Dingos, a multi-purpose mini tractor made by Toro, are used to carve out the many chambers, paths and features inside, including tunnels, fountains, slides, and thrones embedded with color-changing LED lights.
When the ice castle is open, the building crew becomes the maintenance crew, grooming the paths in and around the ice castle daily. Additionally, some 30 other people perform a variety of customer-support duties.
Ice Castle facts
It takes about 4,000 hours of work to build an ice castle.
Ice castles have been featured in some very popular YouTube videos, including by The Piano Guys, Lexi Walker, Alex Boye, and Lindsey Sterling.
The first ice castle in the Southern Hemisphere was built in 2017 at the Cardona Ski Field in New Zealand.
The 2016 Lincoln ice castle, according to Ice Castles LLC, generated upward of $7 million in secondary spending by visitors, who, on average, spend about 1.6 nights in the Lincoln area.