Winter warm-up forces closure of Stillwater ice castle for now

STILLWATER, Minn.--The giant ice castle in downtown Stillwater will be closed starting Thursday -- and could be closed into next week -- due to warm weather.

Jake Telschow adds ice "rebar" to columns of ice on an ice tower to add more height to the tower in the Stillwater Ice Castle. The attraction is slated to run through mid-February, weather permitting. Photographed on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

STILLWATER, Minn.-The giant ice castle in downtown Stillwater will be closed starting Thursday - and could be closed into next week - due to warm weather.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people, many of whom will be in town for Hockey Day Minnesota activities, had purchased tickets to tour the ice castle this weekend. Hockey Day will be Saturday at Mulberry Point, just north of the castle's location in Lowell Park.

Organizers said Wednesday that people who have purchased tickets can reschedule their visits by emailing .

"It's a huge loss for us," said Ryan Davis, co-founder of Utah-based Ice Castles LLC. "It would have been our biggest and busiest weekend by far for us. We've sold tickets to people coming this weekend from almost all of the 50 states. We're letting people move to different days, but that doesn't really help if you're flying in from Texas or Florida."

Since the castle's floor is made of 8 inches of crushed ice, warm weather - Thursday's high is expected to be 41 degrees - will turn the castle's walking surface into a wet and slushy mess, Davis said.


"We crush it, so it melts fast," Davis said. "We don't want people walking through six inches of water. It's just not fun. The (crushed ice) does great at 35 degrees or lower, but after four days in a row, it's going to have a ton of water in it. People walk along and they're like, 'Oh, that's so pretty,' and then they step in, and they're wearing tennis shoes, and they're wet up to their ankles, and they're like, 'Just take me home.' "

Once the temperature drops, the walking surface will be prepared for reopening; visitors should check the Ice Castles Facebook page for reopening details.

"We don't expect this to happen on a Saturday in January," Davis said. "But we had the same thing in Utah last week - where we had to close down for three days - and then weather came in and right now it's freezing and we're better than we were before. The lucky thing is, as soon as it's cold, we'll make it better."

But will the ice be safe?

Davis said the warm weather will not affect the soundness of the structure, which has walls that are 10 to 15 feet thick. "Two inches of ice will safely carry a human, 3 inches will safely hold a snowmobile and 4 inches will hold a car," he said. "There will be some melting, and the walking surface will become wet, but structurally, the ice castle will be fine in warm weather."

Ice Castles LLC previously built giant ice structures in Eden Prairie and at the Mall of America. Instead of using blocks of ice to build a traditional ice palace, its crews use icicles and water to make a towering, glacier-like structure and embed thousands of LED lights in the ice.

Davis said the company hopes to continue to operate on city-owned land in Stillwater over the next few years. Next year, it plans to build on Mulberry Point.

"We love Stillwater," Davis said. "It's really been a great location for us, and we don't have any intention to move anywhere else for now."

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