The Ice Castles in Breckenridge: An Overload of Frozen Magic

I love to surprise my kids and they love being surprised, which is a win-win for everyone.

A couple of weeks ago, we had one of our favorite winter vacations ever in Breckenridge, Colo., a charming resort that is the very definition of Ski Town USA. I’ll have many more details to come on our adventures dog sledding and skiing but it was our first day that was my favorite.

Now, keep in mind we’d just spent a very exhilarating afternoon dog sledding but Jamie and I had one more surprise up our sleeves. The kids were tired and it’s tough to compete with mushing.

“Mom, so where are we going for our surprise?”
“I’m not telling. Be here’s a hint: the movie, Frozen.”
“Ice castles? Are we going to see ICE CASTLES?”

My kids nailed it on the first guess. And much to our delight, the giant Ice Castles in Breck are a cut right out of Disney’s musical fantasy where you’ll swear you’ve been swept away in an eternal winter with magic at every turn. Disclaimer: mangy reindeer named Sven not included.

This is Brent Christensen’s fifth year building Ice Castles and his third go-around in Colorado (previous years were in Silverthorne and Steamboat). Conveniently located at 150 W Adams Ave. in downtown Breck adjacent to Blue River Plaza, the 1-acre frozen kingdom gives you yet another reason to visit this world-class resort town.

So, how do they do it? According to Christensen, each ice castle takes thousands of man-hours to make. More than 5,000 icicles are “grown” each day to be harvested and sculpted together. Newly placed icicles are then drenched in freezing water once or twice each day. The blend of icicle placement, changing temperatures, water volume and wind result in an astonishing and ever-changing variety of ice formations. Each ice castle uses about three million gallons of water to build and maintain. Wasteful? The Ice Castle is located next to a natural water source (the Blue River) and so all of the water returns directly into the environment to be used again by wildlife, people and plants.

I’m Canadian so I know snow and ice but there is something awe-inspiring about seeing the castle all lit up with the lighting actually frozen inside of the ice. My family visited late in the day when the ice takes on glacial tones of deep blue.

Blue Smurf Family


With the Ice Castles’ winding passageways, it was the perfect place to play hide-and-seek or, even more fun, Ditch the Mom.

I rounded the corner to see these three devious faces grinning back at me.

We bundled up in our ski clothes and returned later that night (your ticket is valid all day) to a luminous crystalline display.  I pointed my iPhone up and snapped back-to-back photos of the ever-changing play of light.

Ice Castle Rainbow

Ice Castle Pretty in Pink

We loved “warming” ourselves by the fire.
If it is possible to do that through a wall of icicles.
The Ice Castles are  an ephemeral work-in-progress and will continue to be expanded upon throughout the season. At the time of our visit, the “artists” were working on a ramp that would lead to the top of the castle with a slide for a quick and thrilling way down.
My kids’ favorite part was a tunnel that cut through a wall of ice.  I’m not really claustrophobic but when I saw them shimmying through the tiny space, visions of Pooh Bear danced in my head. Getting stuck in ice was not my idea of a good time but I ultimately sucked it up because I didn’t want to be that mom who wouldn’t try new things.
My fears were unfounded–though the tunnel’s quarters were narrow, I slithered through just fine. Initially starting out on my stomach I flipped to my back which I later regretted when I started the slow downhill slide and was ejected onto the snowy floor.  I reassured myself that if I did get stuck, surely a blowtorch would help me out.
Though I’m unsure if that is a good or bad thing.


General Admission, age 12 and up:    $10. Children 4 to 11: $8. Young Children under 4 years old:  Free. Military / Seniors: $8 (must show ID). Season pass: $30


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