With ice castles, tunnels, slides and palaces cropping up all around the Twin Cities, it’s clear that they’re a highly anticipated winter spectacle. Ice Castles brings fun in the form of caverns, towers, fountains, and slides to Long Lake Regional Park in New Brighton for the third year. The Minnesota Ice Maze moves their twists and turns to Viking Lakes for their Winter SKOLstice celebration. Both ice structures are brought by private ice building companies. Something a little different is popping up over 30 miles out from the Twin Cities.
The Ice Palace is slowly freezing on the grounds of the 5-acre Fountain Hill Winery in Delano. Started in Idaho five years ago, the Ice Palace is a family-owned and -operated business that stemmed out of another family business: log cabin building. Ice Palace CEO Brigham Youngstrom grew up in the log cabin his father built and he and his brothers went on to build log cabins in the Idaho summers. Looking for something to fill the winters, Brigham’s father Jim was inspired by Norwegian ice palaces and found a way to translate log cabin building into ice palace building.
“My dad is very, very creative, he’s an inventor, and he came up with a patented ice system that we use today on how to do this ice palace,” Youngstrom says. “The patent itself is how to form ice logs that we stand up to build a frame out of ice, then we spray that frame and build huge walls and let mother nature do her magic from there.”
In its first expansion out of Idaho, the Youngstrom family teamed up with Justin Dooley of Fountain Hill Winery to bring the Ice Palace to Minnesota from December 27 through March 4 (potentially opening earlier depending on Minnesota’s fickle winter weather.) The Palace is made up of 20-foot walls that lay over 350 feet in length featuring tunnels and bridges made of ice blocks. But, Youngstrom says, “You’re not just coming out to look at some ice. You’re coming out to explore a magical ice palace.” The experience is unique at any hour of the day and at any part of the season. At night, hundreds of LEDs shine from within the ice and in the bright light of day, the ice shines with a glacial quality. “The thicker the ice is and the longer it’s sitting, it absorbs more UV rays and it turns more blue. Toward the end of the season, especially during the day, the ice is very blue and pretty,” says Youngstrom.
Visitors can burrow through miles of ice tunnels, and shoot through ice slides and seek out their favorite winter characters roaming through the palace. Warm up with a fire show from Insphyre Performance every 30 minutes. Don’t let the cold shy you away, the winery is open and there will be fire pits and a warming tent for those who want to brave the elements. If the weather allows for an opening before the holidays, guests can also bump into Santa who will be visiting the palace everyday before Christmas.
The Youngstrom’s hope to further expand and make the Ice Palace an annual event in Minnesota. “We come from Scandinavian/Norwegian descent,” Brigham says. “We like to say it’s in our blood to work with ice and create a fun experience for other people to come out and see.”