FRANCONIA, New Hampshire —
It’s a spectacle of epic and chilly proportions. A team of 20 ice builders in the White Mountains has been hard at work creating a massive castle made entirely of ice. The ice castle will draw around 100,000 visitors to North Woodstock this winter season to tour the structure that weighs more than 10 million pounds and is so heavy it will actually start to sink into the ground a bit.
Jared Henningsen finds himself a long way from his native Australia as he manages Ice Castle New Hampshire. The company has six castles in North America; its flagship castle in Utah, and then others in Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Alberta, Canada. Henningsen recommends people buying tickets ahead of their visit online because the castle does have a limited capacity.
In mid-January, the glacial walls stretched 20 feet high, but Henningsen says they will double in the coming months as builders continue to add icicles and grow the structure. And on a cold, windy night with temperatures in the single digits its is important to dress in layers, Henningsen says, to enjoy the castle without literally freezing.
This is the seventh year they've built an ice castle in New England, and this is the biggest one to date. Tunnels, a bridge, overlooks and slides connect the large outdoor palace that is made entirely of ice with no supporting structure as 200 colored lights glow beneath the ice in cosmic Northern Light colors.
Builders start with a layout on the ground, mapping out the perimeter. Icicles are grown in an icicle farm behind the castle. Once they are the correct length, they're harvested, and builders climb the towers to plant each icicle into the structure. A large watering system sprays the whole castle, helping each icicle grow. When builders are working at full capacity, Henningsen says they plant anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 icicles every day.
Of course, the castle is at the mercy of mother nature. Perfect building conditions require cold temperatures and little snow.
Builder Ashling Pettipaw and her dog Sherman from Bristol, New Hampshire, are in their fourth season at the castle.
"I garden during the summer...Every winter I was trying to figure out something to do," Pettipaw wanted to keep on gardening but winters got in the way until she found ice building. "We just garden with ice," Pettipaw says as she shows off a 20-foot structure she calls a tree which is her own creation.
Pettipaw loves meeting people from all over the country who come to take the chilly tour. She hopes her creativity and the ice castle will inspire others.
"Make art. Don’t be discouraged that you’re not the best in the world. It's just about making it where the magic happens," she says with a smile on her face.
Better than pulling a rabbit out of a hat, this magic pierces the cold to put a smile on the faces of those touring the glacial palace.