LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Shepard Park in the village of Lake George has been host to ice sculptors every year, during the annual Winterfest held in February.
The nearby city of Glens Falls has had its own wintertime marvels, hosting annual ice sculpture competitions in City Park.
But neither of those are quite like what’s coming next.
On Tuesday, village and county officials gathered to welcome representatives from Ice Castles, a winter attraction group that sculpts fortresses of frost and icicles that visitors can explore, from towering walls to ice slides, and a lot more.
“We’ve been working on this with local chambers of commerce and the county for about three years, and it’s finally come to fruition,” said Warren County Tourism DIrector Joanne Conley, who introduced a press conference outside Charles R. Wood Festival Commons on Tuesday morning. “So now we just need mother nature to cooperate.”
Ice Castles hosts winter wonderlands in six different states – New York, Colorado, New Hampshire, Utah, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The castles include ice mazes, slides, crawl tunnels and even VIP spaces.
The process is a long way from the chainsaw carving it takes to make a typical ice sculpture.
The craftsmen at Ice Castles will spend thousands of hours in Charles R. Wood Park this fall and winter, growing between 5,000 and 12,000 icicles that will be hand-harvested and sculpted, added to existing ice structures-in-progress. Crafters use variables in wind, water, temperature and more to create formations that change actively.
Ice castles are typically around an acre in size, and consist of more than 25 million pounds of ice. They are always built next to a natural water source – like the waters of Lake George – so that the ice can melt and run off safely in the spring.
On Tuesday, Ice Castles CEO Kyle Standifird said he was immediately struck by the collaboration between town, village and county governments and business associations in helping get the big project to come to the small village.
“We were really struck by that,” he said, “and it was really easy to choose and say yes and say, we want to be a part of this.”
Although things vary based on weather, castles typically open for public visits in early January. Once finished, the plan will be for the castles to be open to visitors in Charles R. Wood Park throughout the winter, at an admission price of $16 for children or $28 for adults.
And the timing lines up. This winter, the village of Lake George is looking forward to the return of the Lake George Winter Carnival, just in time for its 60th year.
That, combined with the more recent Lake George Winterfest, means a level of winter business that mayor Bob Blais says fulfills a long-sought dream for what is now the Charles R. Wood Festival Commons.
“Our goal was to make this a year-round destination,” Blais said of the park, which first opened around 5 years ago. “And now, Ice Castles is helping us make that dream come true. It’s a game-changer.”
With the castles, Blais said, the park space will be fully booked for events all the way until October 2022.
The expectation is for Lake George’s castles to draw as many as 90,000 people to the village this winter.