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To Build a Castle Out of Ice, Start With 5,000 Icicles – or Maybe More

  • Sherri Covell of Ashland fuses icicles to the top of an in-progress ice tower at Ice Castles in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The construction of Ice Castles continues ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The construction of Ice Castles continues ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The construction of Ice Castles continues ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The construction of Ice Castles continues ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The construction of Ice Castles continues ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sherri Covell of Ashland fuses icicles to the top of an in-progress ice tower at Ice Castles in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Icicle building materials sit in sleds during construction of Ice Castles ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • An icicle frame promotes more ice growth during construction of Ice Castles ahead of opening day near the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Concord Monitor
Thursday, December 28, 2017

Building castles in the air is said to be a fool’s game. Building castles out of ice is much more down to earth — quite literally.

“You have to build it right on the ground. ... If you were to put down a substructure and freeze on top of that, it’s immensely weaker than building out of solid ice. You can’t get ice that adheres really well to other substances,” said Brent Christiansen, the founder of Ice Castles, the Utah firm that is building the annual ice castle display in Lincoln, N.H.

With frozen arctic air over the region this week, everything is on schedule for a Jan. 1 opening. This is the fifth year that the walk-through structure, complete with internal lights and a plumbing system that keeps the walls supplied with their basic building material, will be near the Hobo Railroad. Construction takes up to two months and requires as many as 40 workers, and the resulting castle can weigh 25 million pounds, according to the company.

Ice can be a surprisingly good building material as long as the weather isn’t too warm. In polar regions, oil companies spray ocean water to create ice islands that can hold entire drilling operations, while multistory ice hotels have become popular tourist destinations in winter.

Christiansen notes that those hotels are actually built of snow, which has been packed into forms and compressed to create solid building blocks. The Ice Castle, however, lives up to its name, built entirely of frozen water pumped in from a hydrant.

The castle invites visitors to walk through its halls and under its arches. At night, the ice is lit with various colors in tune to music.

“I come up with a design. We lay out all of the plumbing, the pipes that deliver the water on the ground, as well as electrical lines for the lights, and when the weather turns cold — which it has now, thankfully — work begins,” Christiansen said.

The structure is built with 5,000 to 12,000 large icicles, each 18 inches to 3 feet in length, some grown naturally and some frozen within pipes, that form the basic structure, like an internal scaffolding.

“We place icicles in formations, day by day, to promote the ice castles to grow in certain directions,” Christiansen said. “We stand some up, like rebar — we put them vertically, horizontally, as we build a castle.”