Icy Paradise Coming to Lake Geneva

Experience a new type of winter wonderland this season as you explore a 30,000-square-foot “ice castle” on Lake Geneva’s Riviera Beach.

Officials expect the attraction to open in late December, and it will be a highlight of the city’s Winterfest celebration Jan. 26 to Feb. 3.

“Considering Lake Geneva is the place to go for winter fun, this is just another asset that reinforces our legacy as a vacation destination,” says Joe Tominaro, director of marketing and development for VISIT Lake Geneva.

The concept for Ice Castles was developed during the winter of 2010, when Brent Christensen returned to his native Utah and wanted his daughter to delight in the joys of winter. Christensen created his own version of a snow fort by running a hose over a swing set, which produced an ice cave. With a little ingenuity, he realized he could take it to another level.

Ice Castles LLC was established a year later in Midway, Utah, and has emerged in four other locations: Lincoln, New Hampshire; Edmonton, Alberta; Dillon, Colorado; and Stillwater, Minnesota. Each location offers a one-of-a-kind experience comprised of thousands of icicles handplaced by professional ice artists.

Anywhere from 20 to 40 “ice artisans” are involved in the process, which requires using racks that resemble dog crates to develop what Ice Castles Marketing Director Rachel Kahler calls “icicle farms.” She explains, “In essence, we’re harvesting icicles. The process of growing them can range from 5,000 to 12,000 icicles per day,” she adds.

According to Kahler, the intricately detailed structures each occupy about an acre and can reach heights of 20 to 30 feet. They can take about two months to construct and weigh more than 25 million pounds.

A self-proclaimed “ice junkie,” Kahler says the company is looking forward to expanding to Lake Geneva. “It’s always exciting to come into a new community,” Kahler says. “We have been so welcomed by businesses. They’re excited about us coming and bringing more visitors to the area.”

Christensen and a site manager started laying the foundation for Lake Geneva’s Ice Castles in October, including setting up water lines and electricity so they can freeze color-changing LED lights into the castle walls.

Water volume, wind conditions and other weather factors determine the exact structural balance of each castle, but the design ultimately comes down to Christensen’s vision, which is why no two structures are the same. The optimal lifespan of a castle, according to Kahler, is late December to early March.

Tickets will be sold according to arrival times, but once you enter the castle, there is no limit to your visit, says Kahler. Reserve a spot at icecastles.com/lake-geneva/.

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