Destination Recreation: Loon Mountain Ice Castle - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: Loon Mountain Ice Castle

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This towering ice fortress is dazzling visitors to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.

"Yeah, this is a wow moment," says visitor Millie Gabriel.

"It's an incredible feeling to see people really light up when they come through here," says Cory B. Livingood.

Livingood is an engineering major who also studied art and business. To build this icy maze, he's using all three. Their work began back in October.

"It all starts with sprinklers, and then we spray a mist on racks. We hand-pick icicles from those racks, place those icicles around the sprinklers that we have run through the entire castle, and then we turn on those sprinklers," he says. "Ice accumulates on the icicles that we've placed. As they get bigger, we bring the sprinklers up and we place more icicles on top of that."

He estimates they've used about 200,000 icicles and about 20,000 tons of ice total. The stalactites dangling from the caved ceilings may be ominous, but he says they're safe.

"People walk through and they're afraid of the ice above their heads, but it's not connected to anything, there is no substructure. It's all solid ice. So when it melts, it melts back up the same way it formed," he says.

It's the first year of the ice castle and Loon Mountain says it's been a success. So far, they've had more than 50,000 visitors.

Visitors like Kate Spencer and her son Archie. She says she wanted to take him so that he could experience what it was like for her growing up.

"It's pretty incredible. It's funny, I kind-of grew up in Alaska, so we went through glaciers all the time, so that's kind-of part of my childhood, so it was nice to be able to share that with him too," she says.

It's certainly a winter wonderland for the kids, with hidden tunnels and slides to explore. For the kids at heart, the experience is magical.

"The hanging stalactite thingys -- it's just beautiful. I'd love to come back at night," says visitor Claudia Siniscalchi.

"During the day when you're walking through you get the nice glacial blues, but in the evening when the sun goes down we turn on our own lights," says Livingood. "The lights are embedded in the ice and they glow from within, so it gives it a completely different feel."

But all good things must come to an end, and with spring around the corner, he says they're seeing more flooding, and it's about time to trade the ice castle for warmer temperatures.

"I'd like it to be able to stay open longer, but I'm ready for the end of the season too," he says. "It's always a long season when you're doing this kind of work."

He says they're already hoping to be back next year with a new design to share.

And if you want to visit the ice castle, you have until Saturday, March 15, depending on the weather. For more information, visit: http://www.loonmtn.com/info/winter/advctr.aspx

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