Cripple Creek to Host “Ice Castles” Attraction

Fairy  Tale Recreations Could Generate an Additional 100,000-plus Visitors

Rick Langenberg

If locals and visitors enjoy the Cripple Creek Ice Fest, they are in for an extended winter wonderland treat, starting as early as this Christmas.

And once again, the  CC/V (Cripple Creek/Victor) district could hit another jackpot strike as far as another big and unique tourist attraction, only this time it will appease winter ice-fans and children. This follows the sensation generated from Rita, the Rock Planter, dealing with a troll sculpture, crafted by Danish artist Thomas Dambo.

In the last year, the Teller and Ute Pass region has showcased a bevy of unusual new attractions.

At last week’s council meeting, Cripple Creek City Administrator Frank Salvato announced that Ice Castles, a company that develops major ice fantasy works in only five areas in the United States, under the theme, of  an “awe-inspiring, must-see winter phenomenon that brings fairy tales to life,” has agreed to have Cripple Creek serve as its Colorado location.  Cripple Creek will replace Dillon as the Ice Castles Colorado hub, with the company already securing property overlooking the downtown(near Fourth Street and Warren) as its spot for hosting the ice castles that resemble scenes from a children’s story book.

The other Ice Castles’ spots are located in Utah, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York.

“This is huge,” said Salvato, in describing the pending deal, with a formal announcement expected early this week. More notably, he said the Ice Castles representatives estimate the attraction, which is scheduled to occur from Christmas, 2023 to early March, could generate between 80,000 and 110,000 visitors, based on company projections. “Everyone is very excited,” said the city administrator

According to Salvato, the driving force behind the deal was the success of the town’s Ice Fest, with the Castles group leaders quite amazed at the number of people that attended the two-week festival in Cripple Creek.

At last week’s council meeting, a short video was played, outlining the vision behind the Ice Castles, described as “a magical place” for children and families, and a way to “make the magic a reality” through the ice masterpieces.

According to their website, Ice Castles “brings fairy tales to life for hundreds of thousands of families across North America.” The concept was started in 2011, and the group “has been dedicated to creating an experience that will live on long after the ice melts. For all who enter through our icicle-adorned archways, we hope the time spent at Ice Castles is a source of joy and inspiration.”

The Ice Castles representatives in their video admitted they use a technology that was engineered by the group’s owner as a hobby to entertain his children. It led to a large ice cave for his children and then grew into a “winter wonderland” fascination within the neighborhood, and eventually expanded to a popular attraction for thousands of families.

The only real challenge is that the company’s ice creations require an extensive amount of water.

And as part of an incentive offer to lure the company to Cripple Creek, the city and local casinos will pick up about half of the costs for the water expenses, according to the proposed agreement.

The administrator stated that active talks have occurred with the company leaders for some time, and they finally agreed to select Cripple Creek as their Colorado site. Previously, Dillon was used as the Colorado Ice Castles spot.

More details of the Ice Castles winter attraction, and the kind of displays that will be featured in Cripple Creek, will get unveiled during a town hall meeting, slated for the evening of Oct. 10, at the Butte Theater. The city administrator stated that Ice Castles company representatives will discuss their project face-to-face with local residents.

Under a best-case scenario, the ice castles could open around Christmas of 2023, according to the city administrator.

“It is very weather dependent,” said Salvato, in describing the opening time. The castles will remain in Cripple Creek until the first week in March.

Salvato also believes that the company will be participating in the 2024 Ice Fest.

Mayor Bids Farewell

In other city news, Mayor Milford Ashworth officially bid farewell and made some final comments. Ashworth was scheduled to remain in office until early November, but due to family obligations, he has moved up his expected departure. “I am turning in my resignation,” quipped Ashworth, who has served as mayor for close to four years, while also working as a council member for a number of years.

Ashworth is relocating to the Midwest, where much of his extended family reside. “We are going to be Hoosiers,” said the mayor.

Shortly after his announcement, the mayor was delivered a proclamation, citing his accomplishments in bringing professional rodeo back to Cripple Creek and his work in spearheading a museum in Victor and for his service to the community.

In turn, Ashworth complimented the city staff and believes the town has taken a major step forward in the last few years, compared to the time he spent previously on the council. “I thank everyone ,” added the departing mayor.

The mayor said the current council sometimes disagree on certain issues, but they “get the job done” and work together well.

Ashworth’s early decision to step down has sparked a competitive race for his replacement. Three contenders—Annie Durham, Melissa Trenary and Les Batson – have entered the race for the city’s top leadership post.

In other action, the council agreed to lower the taxes assessed on the sale of retail marijuana and amended its fee for marijuana transactions.

These actions were prompted by a desire by the elected leaders to allow this new industry to compete with marijuana shops in Manitou Springs. To date, only one applicant has come forward with a bid to open a marijuana business locally.  The door was open for the sale of retail marijuana, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot proposition, legalizing retail marijuana sales in Cripple  Creek on a limited basis.