Dillon’s premier winter attraction is beginning to take shape in Town Park, with dozens of workers chipping away daily to create the 2019-20 iteration of the ice castles.
The castles are returning for a third straight winter in Dillon, one of six locations in North America for the Utah-based Ice Castles LLC. Construction is well underway with bases of ice already stretching well overhead. While there is still quite a bit of work to do, town representatives and construction crews are already anticipating another great season.
“It’s so much fun to watch it take shape as temperatures are starting to cooperate,” said Kerstin Anderson, Dillon’s marketing and communications director. “We’re thrilled to have them back in town and driving close to 100,000 people into the town over the next few months. … We can’t wait to get in there and see what the new features are this year and to welcome everyone to town.”
While there are some new features planned for the attraction on top of past favorites — including an additional slide overlooking a fountain and perhaps even a steam-spewing volcano, if weather cooperates — putting everything together is no easy task.
Site manager Anna Closser said a group of 30 employees have been on-site preparing since September and just turned on the water earlier this month. Before construction begins, the group prepares a detailed layout of the acre-sized plot. And once the weather gets cold enough, they’ll start creating and harvesting icicles — up to 10,000 a day — to build the structures.
During construction, workers hope for the best as far as the weather is concerned. On occasion, temperatures will rise, and workers will have to watch as their day’s work melts away. And while they’re only able to build in freezing temperatures, Colorado also brings some unique challenges to the equation.
“When the weather is warm, it’s not really helpful for us,” said Closser, who’s also helped to build castles in Wisconsin and New Zealand. “And Colorado has a super strong sun, so that affects us, too. We’ll plant our icicles, and they’ll get really fragile because of the sun. It’s something that our Dillon location specifically has to deal with. The 9,000 feet of elevation really throws things off.”
Once the endeavor is completed, the attraction will feature colorfully lit castles ranging from 30 to 55 feet tall to go along with a number of other components including arches, tunnels, crawl spaces and more. Once visitors enter, they’ll be free to choose their own adventure and meander through the park as they please so that everyone gets a unique experience, whether they’ve seen the attraction in previous years or not.
“There’s definitely nothing like this that you’ll ever experience,” Closser said. “A structure that’s almost completely made of ice is such a unique thing, and to slide down an ice-slide is something you don’t get to do every day. So coming to the ice castles is definitely an experience that’s great for the whole family or for friends to come enjoy. There’s just a wonderful kind of beauty to it.”
With tens of thousands expected to view the castles again this year, businesses in the town core should beexpecting a bump in visitation, as well. Anderson noted that during the first year of the ice castles, there was about a 26% increase in sales tax revenue from businesses in the town core, which was also maintained throughout the second season. The town expects similar gains this year along with considerable media and marketing value for the town.
“We get a lot of media coverage from the castles, which helps to take Dillon to the top of people’s mind when they’re looking at Colorado destinations,” Anderson said. “We think that it’s just a magical experience, and we love having people come to our town and associate that good feeling with us.”
The castles are expected to open sometime in mid- to late December depending on weather, and presale tickets will be available until Dec. 2 aticecastles.com. Until then, the individuals working to build the castles are already getting excited to share their creation with the rest of the world.
“It’s really nice to see people interacting with it,” Closser said. “Sometimes, whenever I’m having a down day, I’ll just walk into the castle and watch everybody’s reactions to what we’ve built. It’s awesome to see the smiles on kids’ faces and families enjoying it. It’s kind of uplifting for us. We work so hard to build this. We just want to share it with everybody.”
Whether you’re taking to the roads following a storm, going for a stroll through town or just relaxing at home, winter in the mountains brings with it some serious safety concerns.
Luckily, Summit Fire & EMS spokesman Steve Lipsher has some tips to help everyone in the community stay safe as conditions begin to turn for the worse.
On the move
While visitors are often concerned about avalanches or blizzards, Lipsher said the biggest safety risks are those that might seem somewhat innocuous. The biggest, for example, is slipping. Lipsher recommended pedestrians consider bringing a walking stick or traction cleats when they head out for a walk or hike.
“Believe it or not, the No. 1 accident and safety risk people encounter are slips and falls on icy sidewalks and walkways,” Lipsher said. “Especially the way our winter has started, we’re seeing a lot more ice and a lot less snow so far.”
But perhaps the most dangerous concern for people on the move during the winter is driving in inclement weather and on icy roadways. Lipsher said there’s dozens of crashes in the area with each snowstorm. Drivers should make sure they have all-weather tires — or preferably snow tires — on their vehicles and should plan to leave early so they can drive slow.
Lipsher also said residents in the area should keep a winter survival kit in their cars, filled with essentials like extra warm clothes, a sleeping bag, shovel, ice scraper, first-aid kid, jumper cables, phone charger, flares, food and water. And drivers should avoid letting their gas tanks get too low.
“All of these things are for the possibility you could slide off a road or get stuck in a snowdrift and can’t get out,” Lipsher said. “But when you’re on the road, we cannot emphasize enough the need for all motorists to slow down, give lots of room, signal your intentions and drive predictably.”
There are also plenty of things that residents can do to make sure they’re safe in the comfort of their own homes this winter.
Inside, everyone should make sure their carbon monoxide detectors are properly working. As homeowners fire up their furnaces, the dangerous gas can begin to build up if the furnace flue is blocked or clogged. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can be lethal.
Lipsher also noted that people should be careful not to place anything too close to space heaters and to be sure to extinguish any candles after use. Another common mistake people make is leaving windows open overnight, which can lead to freezing fire-sprinkler lines and can result in flooding.
One major issue homeowners should be aware of is snow building up on roofs. In 2017, the roof of theTen Mile Room collapsedin Breckenridge under the weight of snow. Lipsher said that while there is no set rule for when it’s necessary to clear your roof of snow, homeowners should keep an eye out for creaking inside the structure, leaking from the roof or doors and windows not closing correctly, all of which can be signs of too much weight. There is also a countybuilding inspection department matrixthat helps residents check parameters for snow loads.
Of note, homeowners should take care when clearing snow off their roofs. Just last year,a man was killed in Crested Butteafter being buried by a roof avalanche. Lipsher said residents should use a snow rake if they’re trying to clear their roof themselves, make sure not to position themselves in a spot where they could get buried and not try to clear snow alone.
“You want to be in a position where you are not below the snow accumulation, to where if you broke a piece of it loose, the rest is going to be collapsing down on you,” Lipsher said. “That is very dangerous, and if you get buried, you could find yourself the victim of a very true avalanche right in your front yard.”
Finally, residents should be sure to routinely — and gently — clear snow and ice from gas meters around their homes. Earlier this year, aBreckenridge home explodedwithtwo men insideafter a piece of ice slid off the roof and sheared the gas line outside the house.
If your gas meter is blocked by snow or ice, any rupture potentially could create a buildup of gas inside a house or crawlspace, which could be ignited by any number of sources.
“We always just want to get out some of these basic tips every winter, especially when we have such a transient community,” Lipsher said. “I remember when I moved up here from Texas, and I thought I would die. Everyone just has to learn how to dress for it, what to carry and how to be prepared.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 26, at the Summit Board of County Commissioners regular meeting, the commissioners discussed whether the county should increase its property tax revenues by keeping more of what would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers.
As withBreckenridge’s Nov. 12 town council discussion, the resolution did not propose raising the property tax mill levy, as this would need to be decided via a public vote. However, the valuation of properties in Summit County has increased, increasing property taxes.
“This is an opportunity for the county commissioners to retain certain revenues,” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “We have the opportunity to go forward with some additional revenue for county projects.”
County attorney Jeffrey Huntley said the county is short on capital funds for the 2020 budget, which is why they are seeking this type of funding.
The county was able to do this via a TABOR exception Summit County voters approved in 1998. Therevenue retention ballot issueallows the county to “collect, retain and expend … all revenues and other funds from any source during 1998 and each subsequent year as a voter-approved revenue change notwithstanding the limitations in (TABOR).”
The funds will be allocatedto remodel several public buildings, including the road and bridge building, the search and rescue and dive rescue facility, the transit building, the Sheriff’s Office substation, the emergency management and communication center, the facilities management space and other county administration buildings.
The property tax income also will go toward a remodel of the Summit County Justice Center to allow for additional space for the jail and law enforcement operations, planning a new reservoir at the lower Upper Blue Reservoir site as well as computer systems and vehicles.
Local Real Estate Market:
November is quickly coming to a close and sales are winding down in
2019 at a brisk pace with strong prices.
Sales: Prices remain strong (check out
the chart above). The lowest average sold price in Summit County is
in the town of Dillon at nearly $550,000 with an increase in sales of
up to Breckenridge with the highest average sold price of over
$1,000,000 (up 22%) and a drop in sales numbers by about 17%, a 22%
gain that translates into an average sold price increase of $203,891!
Sales: $1,358,101 is the current
average sold price for a home in Summit County. Sold prices are up
about 11% or $138,017 over the same time period in 2018. Breckenridge
has had the highest gain at plus 19% or plus $256,687! Homes are
selling at 97% of list price on average and are on the market for
about 73 days. Keystone has the highest average sold price at just
Sales: The average sold price for a condo
in Summit County is just over $500,000 and condo sales are down just
a bit by 4%. It does take about 10 days longer to sell a condo this
year or about 44 days on average with the condo prices rising about
4%. Frisco has the lowest number of days to sell a condo at 27 and
Copper has the most at 63.
of the Summit - 2 Offices in Summit County, CO: Frisco &
Data from SAR MLS. Stats pulled on 11/12/19 and is for January,
February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October
and through November 8 comparing the same time period in 2018. **The
information contained herein is based on information provided by
others. Accordingly, we make no guarantee of its accuracy and suggest
you make an independent inquiry of any matters you regard as