The Kings Of Ice Castles Come To New Hampshire

Jan 21, 2014

Utah has one. So does Colorado. And now New Hampshire has one, too: Its very own ice castle.

The frozen structure is now open to the public at Loon Mountain in north central New Hampshire.

It’s taken mother nature and 20 workers about a month to turn tons of homemade icicles into a glacial maze of frozen caverns and clear blue coliseums.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Sean Hurley of New Hampshire Public Radio took a tour of the nearly completed castle and sent us this report.



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Utah has one. So does Colorado. Now New Hampshire has one too. Can you guess? It's an ice castle. The giant frozen structure is now open to the public at Loon Mountain in north central New Hampshire. It's taken Mother Nature and 20 workers about a month to turn tons of homemade icicles into a glacial maze of frozen caverns and clear-blue coliseums. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, New Hampshire Public Radio's Sean Hurley took a tour castle and sent us this postcard.

SEAN HURLEY, BYLINE: Between the rushing river and the railroad tracks at the base of Loon Mountain is a sharply rising fortress made entirely of icicles. The 15-foot high outer walls are studded with frozen spears and enclose a maze-like acre of walking paths and tunnels. Cory Livingood, who's in charge of the castle construction, says the central towers will continue to rise all winter long.

CORY LIVINGOOD: Now this area, this is our tunnels. We'll be working over the next week to start arching some of these over to close them in. This area is going to be really cool. It's a tower called a coliseum. It's actually a series of six towers. And this is going to be one of the areas we really build on a lot throughout the winter that'll continue going up.

HURLEY: Forty to 60 feet high in places. The finished castle will have waterfalls and slides, fire areas and a throne made entirely of icicles. At night, the castle will glow with hundreds of ice-trapped colored lights.

LIVINGOOD: I try to describe it as best as possible. You know, we grow icicles. We hand pick them. We hand place them in a lattice, work around sprinkler heads. On the outside, I describe it - it looks kind of like a waterfall splashing down and forming its own ice formation. And inside the tunnels, it looks more like an ice cave, like the inside of a glacier. It's very smooth, clear blue ice.

HURLEY: Still, words and even photographs don't capture this alien world. The Utah man who came up with this method for building ice castles, Brent Christensen, says it's easier to build a castle than describe one.

BRENT CHRISTENSEN: It's hard to describe in a way because it's unique and it's different. There's no context to really set it in, other than maybe seeing like, going inside of a glacier or maybe a frozen landscape on a different planet.

HURLEY: While Christensen's always loved sculpting and inventing, he never expected to find his life's work while doing the things he loved in his own backyard.

CHRISTENSEN: Well, it was actually quite by accident. The kids and I would go out in the yard. We were playing and making snow forts. We had this big mountain of ice growing in the backyard. And somewhere, a little bit into the project, they started pasting icicles and found out that you can really direct the growth of the structure that way. And we had a lot of people stop by, you know, people drive by and take pictures.

HURLEY: When the news crews and professional photographers arrived, Christensen realized he was on to something. In 2009, he built his first ice castle at a resort in Midway, Utah. This year, he's got nearly 100 people in Utah, Colorado and here in New Hampshire growing and pasting icicles one by one into towers and slot canyons higher and higher until, as Cory Livingood says, the sun says no.

LIVINGOOD: I like that it melts. I'm a big fan of temporary art. I think it's really cool to see the thing go through its life process.

HURLEY: And that's how Livingood sees it, temporary art. Despite the hard hats on the workers and the blueprints and the construction shack, Livingood creates his castle with the obsessive fervor of an artist.

LIVINGOOD: I don't - I lose track of time and I don't eat. I don't drink as much as I should. And, yeah, it's all - you know, I've gotten phone calls around 4 in the morning before from my girlfriend saying, are you coming home at all tonight?

HURLEY: Like all works of art, it's hard not to touch the intricate icicle towers. It's also difficult, apparently, not to eat them.

LIVINGOOD: Also this year, we don't want people eating them. In the past, we've used municipal water. Like I said, this year, it's coming from a brook. So this year is probably not the best idea to eat the icicles.

HURLEY: Another problem, Christensen says, is getting certain people to leave.

CHRISTENSEN: Photographers may be in the ice castles literally all day.

HURLEY: Photographers can capture each castle's intricate beauty and complexity, something both Christensen and Livingood say they almost always fail to describe themselves. And when they're in a loss for words, they'll often direct people to YouTube.

LIVINGOOD: One of the things that has kind of followed us is Lindsey Stirling's YouTube video "Crystallize." It's got like 80 millions views at this point or something. It's just gone completely viral. But there's a lot of people on the East Coast that have seen that video. And when I tell them that we built that castle, they get really excited.

HURLEY: From a pasted icicle fort in his backyard he made with his kids, Christensen has fashioned a cool and chilly empire of ice castles, or as Livingood puts it more plainly...

LIVINGOOD: We give ice a place to grow.

HURLEY: For HERE AND NOW, I'm Sean Hurley at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.


Well, if you don't feel like eating an ice castle, I've got another suggestion here. This is from San Francisco where Jelly Belly, the giant jelly bean maker, has unveiled some new flavors. Robin, are you ready for this?


HOBSON: Draft Beer and Chocolate-Covered Tabasco.


YOUNG: OK, I'm looking at violinist Lindsey Stirling's "Crystallize" video that was just mentioned. She plays in an ice castle. I'm not a Jelly Belly - I'm not a...

HOBSON: All right. Well - but chocolate-covered Tabasco, even so, is pretty crazy.

YOUNG: Is pretty awful.

HOBSON: The company - they announced the new flavors at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this week. And we don't know how that Chocolate-Covered Tabasco jelly bean tastes because there weren't available at the food show.

YOUNG: No, we do. It's terrible.


HOBSON: It might be good. But some reviewers from the FoodBiz website got their hands on the Draft Beer bean which they say does, in fact, taste like beer, sort of like a German Hefeweizen, a wheat bear. And in case you are wondering, the Draft Beer jelly beans are, in fact, alcohol free.

YOUNG: No one was wondering.

HOBSON: Now, I'm hoping that they will get rid of the Buttered Popcorn. That's - if they can do that to replace it with these, I'll be happy. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

YOUNG: I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Yellows pinks and reds orange and greens, how I love to eat my jelly beans. Yellow is like the sun. Please, may I have just one, on second thought, maybe three or four. Pink is so cute and sweet, pink they're so good to eat, could I have a cup or more. Jelly beans, jelly beans, how I love to eat my jelly beans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.