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Bigger, better ice maze returns

Ice Palace MAZE
Zephyr Theatre Artistic Director Calyssa Hall and her father Franz Hall during the construction of the Ice Palace Maze in downtown Stillwater. Franz is the operations manager at the theater and also the architect of the Ice Palace Maze. Paul Dols|/Press Publications

Minnesotans know their way around ice — about 775,000 pounds of ice, to be exact. That impressive poundage belongs to this year’s ice palace maze at the Zephyr Theatre, which opens Jan. 15 and runs until Feb. 20. Weather permitting, the ice palace will remain open until the 28th.

The Stillwater tradition lives on, but this time with even more ice than last year, totaling in 2,900 blocks of ice. Since this year’s maze is bigger, so is the much anticipated ice slide at the maze’s exit.

“It’s the largest ice maze in the US. There’s a lot of ice castles out there, but this is one of the few ice mazes you can walk through. With the sun shining through the ice and so much ice in one place it’s really quite lovely to see,” Executive Director Calyssa Hall said.

Plans for the maze’s layout were finalized in mid-December by maze architect Franz Hall who selects his favorite maze design based on research he has done on maze psychology, which determines what will make for the most interesting maze for visitors. Each twist and turn is part of a well thought out process that is supposed to align with the most logical pathway to get out of the maze.

Inspired by the notion of an “ice palace,” this year, the Zephyr Theatre chose a medieval castle theme for the maze. Two large ice dragons will meet visitors at the maze’s entrance and princes, princesses and mythical characters will roam around the palace with the guests.

In the past the ice palace maze hasn’t had a specific theme, but Hall notes that in the future, visitors can expect themed mazes every year.

“I’m excited to see families come back each year and for the fun of people getting lost in the maze. It’s a fun family winter event,” Hall said.

Sustaining members of the Zephyr theater will get to see a sneak preview of the theater’s hard work and careful planning on Jan. 14.

“Seeing kids run toward the entrance of the maze kind of brings together the idea that we are a theater and we do arts and events. And to see kids get that first glimpse of the maze and get excited as they run toward the entrance makes it all the more worth it,” Hall said.

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