EDMONTON — Ryan Davis was working as a real estate developer five years ago when he started building palaces that melted away each spring.
It’s now his full-time job to build them back up every winter, using hundreds of thousands of shimmering icicles.
“We don’t go bigger than this,” Davis said Wednesday, a few hours before his Utah-based Ice Castles company opened its first Canadian castle in Edmonton.
About nine million kilograms of ice stretches into tall towers and tunnels covering nearly a hectare in William Hawrelak Park.
More than 20 workers started creating the cool curiosity at the end of November.
Davis said they grew at least 10,000 icicles per day on racks using sprinklers, with hoses running 23 million litres of water from a fire hydrant. The chunks were then placed by hand on top of each other and fused in place with more sprinklers.
“We spray them with water and, when you spray an icicle with water, it gets thicker and thicker, and we do that over and over and over and over again,” he said.
Amid the archways, there’s also a fountain, a waterfall, a fireplace, a throne room and two slides. LED lights buried in the ice illuminate the castle in different colours at night.
The castle is set to stay open until March, weather permitting. Admission prices range from $10 to $20, with some proceeds going to global charities and to Edmonton’s Silver Skate Festival.
Festival producer Erin DiLoreto says she spent three years trying to get Ice Castles north of the border. This season, the company has also made castles in Utah, Minnesota and New Hampshire.
“It’s magical,” DiLoreto said, as she surveyed the Edmonton construction.
“I think it’s something for everyone… For little girls, it’s Elsa’s ’Frozen.’ For little boys, it’s Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.”
She hopes Edmonton gets another one next year.
Davis said he’s looking at a couple of other sites in Canada, but no decision has been made yet.
“We’re the only people in the world who build this way,” said the project’s lead artisan, Cory Livingood, his breath forming small ice crystals in his beard.
Livingood studied art, engineering and business and, after moving from Alaska to Colorado, found his calling, he said.
The Edmonton castle is his fifth.
“Every year I get to teach a new group of people how to build an ice castle … It’s actually a lot of fun.”
The structure will change and grow even more over the next few months, Livingood added.
“Since I have the entire winter and cold temperatures, I like to continue playing. So we will continue to change the castle as much as we can.”