MIDWAY — Last year, artist Brent Christensen was creating towers of ice to pay for his son's missions.
This year, he's paying for a wedding for one of those boys and providing a magical winter backdrop for the engagement photos.
But that's not the real reason he spends weeks in the bitter cold, making icicles and towers of frozen water.
The reality is, he loves it.
"It's very ethereal," Christensen said, looking over the beautiful blue towers and walls in his Ice Castles display for 2011. "Sometimes I come out at night and climb up. It's beautiful. I rarely get tired of it.
"I'm a little bit of a lunatic."
That's good, because Christensen has to work day and night
for several weeks to create the display. Then, he has to beg Mother Nature to cooperate. This year, it was tough because first the weather got cold, then it warmed, then it snowed, then it rained, making it impossible to freeze his towers.
Christensen has only been able to grow the ice well over the last couple of weeks. He originally planned to open his display Dec. 17, but the date had to be pushed to last Wednesday.
Even now, he's scraping the ice away to create the walkways and hoping to build higher towers within the next few days.
It doesn't matter if the towers are 15-20 feet high instead of 30-40 feet, visitors are in awe.
Norma Comsa and her husband, Chavalier Valerik Emil Comsa, noticed the Ice Castles as they were driving by and stopped to see what it was. "This is totally fascinating," said Chavalier Comsa. "We'll be back tonight with the grandkids."
"I've never seen anything like it," Norma Comsa said. "But then, we're from Southern California."
Christensen said the display really comes to life at night, when the lights inside the towers are turned on and visitors can walk right into the heart of the two biggest towers.
There are 30 towers built with 20 tons of ice per night. Some look like stalactites, while others have a popcorn appearance.
Christensen has added interest by attaching icicles and funny shapes here and there. (He has an "icicle farm" on one side, where he harvests from 1,000 to 2,000 icicles per day to add.)
He's funding the display, paying for the underground PVC pipe and all of the water. He also hires the crew to chop the walkways.
Midway City is providing him the space at 100 N. 200 West to build the towers. Last year, he created the Ice Castles at the Zermatt resort, but he likes the new space and plans to be back again next year.
He just hopes next year it'll get cold sooner and stay cold enough to create his ice world before Christmas.
The Ice Castles display will be available for viewing until Feb. 28 and costs $5 per adult, $3 per child.
Sharon Haddock is a professional freelance writer with 30 years experience, 17 of those at the Deseret News. She has a personal blog called Grandma's Place at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.