Ice Castles and Cripple Creek Officials Still Mulling Future Plans

Citizens Meeting Planned for April 24; Final Return Decision Expected Soon

Rick Langenberg

Will Ice Castles return to Cripple Creek next winter, and can the two entities reach a multi-year deal?

And if the iconic attraction comes back to Cripple Creek, what changes will occur?  Will the same property be used, and what about future parking options? Are other communities in the region courting the one-of-a kind winter wonderland attraction, only available in a handful of towns across the country.

These questions and more are still being mulled by city and county officials and by representatives of the Ice Castles  company.

A local citizens meeting is being planned for the evening of April 24 at the Butte Opera House in Cripple Creek to get more input from residents, civic leaders and business operators.

A decision regarding Ice Castles possible return to the gaming community will probably occur in late May or early June, according to city officials.

But to date, the iconic attraction has received much praise. And likewise, Ice Castles’ representatives have spoken highly of their debut in the gaming community.

“They are happy, we are happy, and the visitors who came to Ice Castles were happy,” said Jeff Mosher, the city’s special projects director, who played a key role in bringing the attraction to Cripple Creek.

“I can’t really complain about the traffic, since I was the main one responsible for it,” quipped Mosher. “It was like having Ice Fest in Cripple Creek for several months.”

The special projects director stated that the attraction is still undergoing clean-up operations, a key consideration for a return run. “That is all part of our negotiations,” said Mosher.

Officials want to see how the massive ice melts and the accompanying waters flow downstream. A response team, consisting of law enforcement officials, elected leaders and public works experts, is still examining the impacts.

That said, Mosher is cautiously optimistic.

“We all believe it went really well.  There were no big surprises,” explained Mosher.

Brent Christensen, founder of Ice Castles, also was quite satisfied with their initial run in Cripple Creek. “It exceeded any expectations we had by quite a bit,” said Christensen.

In comments made in The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Christensen suggested that more than 100,000 visitors frequented the Ice Castles site. Ice Castles’ representatives were mostly impressed with the cold conditions in Cripple Creek, enabling the facility to stay open longer than its other sites.  Ice Castles opened in late-December, prior to its scheduled opening date, and continued until March 9.

Preliminary reports indicated that traffic accidents increased slightly, but the verdict is still out if these hikes are attributed to the attraction, or the unusually harsh winter the Pikes Peak region experienced in 2024, with an active level of snow storms.

The main problems cited dealt with a lack of food vendors to service Ice Castles. Unfortunately, Cripple Creek’s newest non-gaming downtown restaurant, the District Kitchen and Saloon, opened for business after a lengthy construction period. But this opening didn’t occur until the final day of the Ice Castles’ Cripple Creek debut. The Creek restaurant, voted as the best hangout locally by Best Of voters in an annual TMJ contest, serviced Ice Castles patrons as best they could, but often posted signs indicating that waiting times would be longer than usual and limited the number of people in specific parties it could handle. Several restaurant operators in Woodland Park even stated that they noticed late evening business due to the overflow of Ice Castles customers, who couldn’t find a place to eat in Cripple Creek.

Mosher even contends that an outdoor vendor in Woodland Park reaped many benefits, as many Ice Castles’ patrons came unprepared for the colder conditions at the nearly 10,000-foot level and found themselves buying winter clothes at the last-minute. “We never expected anything like that. But those are the kinds of problems you like to have,” said the special projects director.

Although one elected leader in Green Mountain Falls outlined a possible sidetrack route in the lower Ute Pass for the Utah-based company during a trustees’ meetings due to GMF’s closer access to Hwy. 24, officials say no other competing communities are under consideration.  GMF Mayor Todd Dixon cited water and parking as major obstacles for any future hosting of an attraction, such as Ice Castles, for GMF even though the town is trying to promote more winter-like activities.

“We are off the beaten path,” admitted Mosher, in citing the advantages and disadvantages of the Cripple Creek location.  He said Ice Castles’ officials realized from the get-go they weren’t going to attract the volume of visitors as some of their locations in more populated areas. But on the upside, Ice Castles in Cripple Creek was able to stay open for a much longer period, and the weather was ideal for the company, and its signature icy Technicolor complex.

Cripple Creek Mayor Annie Durham also expressed much elation over the Ice Castles debut. She said in previous media statements that the reaction to the attraction from locals and visitors was overwhelmingly positive.

But the big question hinges on dollars and cents, and if the attraction can operate a successful model in Cripple Creek. Infrastructure problems hindered its previous stint in Dillon, Colorado, which also experienced many traffic problems.

“We hope they come back. It is a real plus for our community,” concluded Mosher.