Cold, glittering Ice Castles rising in Winnipeg for new year

Starting in the new year, Winnipeggers will be able to walk through the glowing, frosty passages of palaces made almost entirely of ice.

Utah-based company building structures up to 15 metres high at The Forks

Ice Castles co-founder Ryan Davis says the site will include slides, tunnels, caverns, lights and a sound system. (CBC)

Starting in the new year, Winnipeggers will be able to walk through the glowing, frosty passages of palaces made almost entirely of ice.

In November, Utah-based company Ice Castles announced it would be coming to Winnipeg for the first time this year, setting up structures that reach as high as 15 metres at The Forks National Historic Site.

"What you're seeing is 100 per cent built by hand. In the world of modern technology, where machines make everything, this is not made by a machine at all," said Ice Castles co-founder Ryan Davis.

The exhibit will take up a full acre at the site and feature ice-carved tunnels, slides and towers that took four weeks to make. The structures will be embedded with LED lights that twinkle along with music at night.

"It's a unique event. You have the beauty of the ice mixed in with all kinds of stuff to do," said Davis. "It's a combination of a lot of the things that are a lot of fun outside, all in one big place."

Workers are carving out tunnels and crawl spaces at the Ice Castles site at The Forks. (CBC)

The company set up sprinklers around the site earlier in the fall, and the walls are built gradually, using icicles made at the site, hand placed around the sprinklers, which then soak the icicles to freeze them in place.

"It ends up being almost like a waterfall, what a waterfall does in a winter. You'll have a lot of glacier-like spaces inside and a lot of waterfall-like spaces," said Davis.

The company is in the final stages of preparation, building slides, carving out tunnels and caverns, and setting up lights and sound systems. The recent cold snap has helped.

"If you're in the ice business, this is good weather," said Davis.

Crews are putting the finishing touches on the Ice Castles exhibition at The Forks. (CBC)

Winnipeg's ice castle array is one of two locations in Canada for the company this year, among six locations in total. The other four locations are in the U.S.

But you'll have to wait until Jan. 5 to check it out yourself. 

Hours run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — the attraction is closed Tuesday — and from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday. You can also visit from 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The Utah-based Ice Castles is nearly finished building towering ice structures on a one-acre site near The Forks. 1:31

Tickets will be available starting Dec. 29. Prices change throughout the week, and you'll save money if you buy them ahead of time online.

For Monday through Thursday, online tickets cost $12.95 for general admission or $9.95 for kids between four and 11. Walk-up tickets for those days cost $17 for general admission and $13 for kids four to 11.

Friday through Sunday, online tickets cost $16.95 for general admission and $11.95 for kids, while walk-up tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for children.