By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 08, 2023 at 2:34 PM

Goodbye, Ice Castles, hello, Winter Realms.

Last January, nearly two dozen ice artisans were working feverishly to ready the fifth installment of the popular Ice Castles at Geneva National Resort in Lake Geneva.


Warm weather pushed the opening from January to February. And then, three days after opening, the Ice Castles abruptly closed.

"It was fun while it lasted," read a post on the Ice Castles Facebook page. "It was a short 3-day season. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate.”

It’s time to try something new in Wisconsin, where you’d think a cold winter is nearly assured.

While the Ice Castles will open again this year in Midway, Utah; Cripple Creek, Colorado; Maple Grove, Minnesota; and North Woodstock, New Hampshire, Lake Geneva and New York’s Lake George are getting the debut of a new event called Winter Realms.

winter realmsX

Winter Realms is described by creators – the same folks who do the Ice Castles – as, “a more weather-resistant winter experience.”

Winter Realms is projected to open in late December, again at Geneva National Resort and tickets will go on sale on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

“Winter Realms will bring the magic of winter to our guests even when Mother Nature is less predictable,” said Ice Castles CEO Kyle Standifird in an announcement Wednesday. “Our commitment to innovation allows us to continue creating enchanting moments, proving that, even in the face of changing climate patterns, the spirit of winter can always be celebrated.”

Planning and construction on the winter event, which will have the same towers, caverns and crawl spaces as Ice Castles, but will add lights, ice and snow sculptures, a Polar Pub ice bar, a tubing hill, horse-drawn wagon rides, ice slides and other features, are already underway, according to Standifird.

According to Ice Castles' Maren Timmerman, the ice-making process has been improved upon, to help make the formations more durable in case of warm weather.

"Due to having to close the last few years given warmer winter weather, we updated our snow and ice making processes," Timmerman told me. "By utilizing newer snowmaking technology, we can create snow at much warmer temperatures that we can make ice.

"This allows us to stockpile snow and create snow structures and then we can spray water on top to create ice.  With the bottom layer of snow, we will have more thermal mass, and each layer of snow acts as an insulating blanket that helps to protect the snow and ice underneath it."

When will it open? Well, as always, that remains up to Mother Nature more than anyone else.

Stay tuned!

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.