Sunday, January 16, 2011

Midway Ice Castles

This afternoon we went on a trip (or a fwip, as Rachel would say) to Midway, Utah. Midway isn't particularly far away but we were getting out of Orem to do something entirely fun (instead of the errand-running we usually try to fob off as an adventure). Emotions have been running high in our household lately, particularly in the three-year-old population, so it was doubly nice to get out of the house and out-and-about for a while.

Her mood improved immensely when she learned that we were going to see a castle!


An ice castle, that is.


Every year this guy makes these brilliant ice castles. He "grows" and "harvests" icicles and then "plants" them "waters" them until they grow into something majestic. He works on them the whole season.


I've always wanted to go to the Winter Festival in Quebec—ever since learning about it in grade four—but Quebec is far away and Midway is right at home. I'll take what I can get. And this was amazing! It was almost enough to make me change my mind about how dreadful winter is, but only for a minute because we wound up cold and wet and tired and then I remembered that winter really is pretty awful...though it can be awfully pretty.


Incidentally, these ice castles reminded me of Patrick’s kindergarten class. He was in kindergarten when I was in grade four and we had just moved to the land of perpetual ice and snow and cold (also known as Southern Alberta). His teacher assigned all the students to dye water—all different colours—and then freeze it in all sorts of shapes of containers. Then the kids all brought their technicoloured ice cubes to school and built a castle outside. It was beautiful!

I mean, for a kindergarten project.


The reason it reminded me of his project was because the ice was dyed blue. Andrew and I actually had a bit of a (good-natured) debate about this.


He insisted that it was natural; I was positive it was not.

"Remember that water is actually blue, not clear," he told me (we learned that from a Happy Meal box in Morocco), "So if the ice is thick enough it should, in theory, be blue and not white."

"Yeah, but this is too blue," I insisted, "Besides, it looked like some of the pipes were leaking blue stuff."

Andrew can be rather convincing, though, so in the end I let him convince me that it was a natural blue.


And then we stumbled onto a patch of snow on the ground that was clearly dyed blue—someone (not us) had vandalized the ice and had smashed it on the ground and it was still very blue (and not due to accumulation of snow, either). I quickly rescinded my admittance of defeat and claimed my victory.

The ice is dyed blue. It's very pretty and almost natural-looking.


Kind of.


Not really.


Still, it gives the ice amazing aesthetic appeal.

I wonder, though, how these castles would look if instead of all being blue there were some that were pink and some that were orange and some that were purple and some that were green.

It could potentially look awesome (like a certain kindergarten project) or it could look really, really gross. Maybe that’s why they stick with blue.


I think Rachel enjoyed herself, though she was focusing very hard on trying to have a miserable time (by being miserable and trying to make everyone around her miserable). Most of the pictures we have of her are of her scowling or are of the back of her head because she turned around before we could take her picture. BUT! I did catch her smiling a few times so I know that in her heart of hearts she had a good time.

We took a single picture of our whole family. Rachel was a very uncooperative subject. When we asked her to be in the picture with us she scrunched up her face in disgust and yelled, "Why!?"

"Well," I told her, "You might not appreciate having your picture taken today but I think you'll appreciate it in about seven years. Do your ten-year-old self a favour and smile for the camera."


I can't really tell if she's smiling or not but at least she's in the picture.

A little part of Rachel was convinced that we had entered the land of Narnia, so the parts of her young mind that weren't dedicated to maintaining her sour disposition were devoted to constantly scanning the horizon for Jadis, the White Witch. She was genuinely worried that the White Witch might be lurking inside one of the many castles or behind the next pillar of ice. Before she would go inside any of the castles one of us would have to check it out first and declare it safe—no witch, no creatures turned to stone, no worries. Even then she occasionally had second thoughts.


I suppose I can’t really blame her for being suspicious of the castles; they were impressive, massive, daunting and pointy.


At one point she found a formation that she thought looked like Aslan. This was the one "almost-smile" I caught on her face; she's pointing out Aslan to me.


Oh, wait. Here’s another picture of a smiling Rachel. You might be able to see her almost-happy face peeking out from behind that pair of legs. It was really supposed to be a picture of Miriam, but these days I’m glad to see Rachel’s smiling face anywhere.


Miriam had a blast—she loves to explore and this was the perfect place for it. I think she got the coldest and the wettest out of anybody. She refused to wear mittens and is so tipsy when she walks that she ended up sitting in the snow more than walking. But she loved every minute.


(My mom gave her that little penguin hat and I can’t get over how cute it is).

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Neither of the girls really wanted either Andrew or I the whole time. They were convinced this was a date with their grandparents—which is fine because, after all, it was Grandma's treat—so whenever we'd try to hold either of their hands they'd shake us off and run to catch up with Grandma and Grandpa.


Rachel helped Grandma with her walking stick—they have a bucket of them at the entrance with a sign that says "adults only." They spray the park down with water every night so in the morning everything is glazed over with a fresh layer of ice; they then go in and jackhammer over the paths so that it's like ice-gravel instead of ice-rink but it's still rather slippery.


Miriam practiced blowing kisses with Grandpa. She's getting pretty good at it.


My girls have such wonderful grandparents (on both sides).


We also enjoyed sneaking a peak at the ice skaters. I haven't seen an outdoor rink in ages. We had a couple in our neighbourhood in Calgary and a few in High River (besides the lakes) but they were free. This one looked like you had to pay to use it at the Skate Haus (Midway was a Swiss settlement and they fully embrace that heritage today, which is why the sign was in half-German; they almost over-do it, what with all their bucolic Swiss-chalet-style weatherboarding (not to be confused with Swiss Chalet, yum) but that's okay; it gives the town an interesting atmosphere).


There's not anything wrong with capitalism in itself but it just seems to propagate the idea if anyone can charge anyone for anything they will. And I don't always agree with that. I have memories of grabbing my skates and heading outdoors to go skating with my friends...without having to bum a dollar off my mom first. They're good memories (even if they are cold ones).


We stayed until the sun got low enough that the temperature started dropping. Then we decided it was time to head out.


It was an amazing outing; I highly recommend it. And so do they:

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(We made a pit-stop in Heber at the Dairy Keen; it’s a restaurant with train decor. The girls had fun playing on the train outside and looking at all the interesting train-things inside.)               



  1. So so cool! We went last year and it was awesome. Now I'm gonna have to go again this year! (twist my arm....)

  2. Wow, that's amazing. Definitely not going to see anything like that around here.

  3. So awesome! Your pictures are stunning!

  4. I love, love, LOVE Midway. I love the Homestead Resort. The crater is awesome. It's such a beautiful little town.

  5. Ok, even though this ice was dyed blue, there really are ice formations that are blue. Pepito Moreno, a glacier in Argentina, is one of these formations. When you look at the sheer cliffs of the glacier it is actually blue. Some of the postcards have the most surreal shots of the glacier. Here is one link:

  6. I'm glad you enjoyed our ice castles. sorry to say, however, that I put no dye whatsoever in the ice. You may have seen some pvc glue (which I spill a lot of when I'm lengthening the pipes). The ice castles are blue for the same reason glaciers are blue inside. It has to do with the way ice absorbs and reflects different colors.

  7. Nancy, now you are famous! Like Bridget! She has authors of books commenting on her blog, and you have creators of ice castles commenting on yours. And--I talked about the ice castles at Midway in Primary today. The kids always want to sing "Once there was a snowman" the opposite way, and have the snowmen grow instead of melt, so I mentioned how they grow the ice castles, which I would never have been able to do without reading your blog post. :o)