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New Ice Palace MAZE will be ‘bigger, bolder’

Ice blocks are hefted into place for the new Ice Palace MAZE at The Zephyr Theatre. (Submitted photo)

Another Ice Palace MAZE is under construction at The Zephyr Theatre, where it will be open to the public Jan. 15 through Feb. 20.

Last year, The Zephyr’s huge Ice Palace MAZE attracted a huge crowd — more than 30,000 visitors. They came to wander through the maze, pose for pics in front of ice sculptures, zip down the ice slide, and huddle around fire pits to eat s’mores. At least one wedding proposal was made — and accepted — in the unique setting.

“The 2022 Ice Palace MAZE will be bigger, the slide will be bolder, and there will be more princesses inhabiting it,” promised Bil MacLeslie, The Zephyr’s managing director.

To fulfill that promise, The Zephyr worked with Minnesota Ice to purchase 2,944 ice blocks from Glacier Block in Middlefield, Ohio. That’s 30 percent more ice than was used last year. Starting Dec. 27, a string of 23 trucks began pulling into the theatre’s parking lot. Each truck carried 128 ice blocks. Each block weighed 300 pounds.

Simply removing the icy cargo was a feat. It took 3 people 1.5 hours to empty each truck. “Just unloading, storing, and safely handling the blocks is very labor intensive,” MacLeslie said. “One small slip and a block can fall and shatter into a useless mess.”

Local craftsmen from Crafted Contracting and Norling Construction returned this year to be the primary builders. They were new to ice-building last year. “Now, leveraging that experience, the team has reassembled and has dusted off its purpose-built tools for working with ice,” MacLeslie said. “The team is laying ice blocks at an incredible pace and is on schedule.”
Tall perimeter walls topped with half blocks of ice will resemble crenellations of a palace. Inside and unseen will be the maze.
This year’s maze with more than a half mile of twists, turns, and deadends has a different — and secret — design. Last year, The Zephyr published a map maze. “This year, the maze is being built using partial plans, so no one except The Zephyr staff knows the entire design,” MacLeslie said.

Last year, the popular side-by-side slide was positioned at the maze exit. This year, a taller and longer slide — still with two chutes — will be independent of the maze, “allowing patrons an uninterrupted experience passing through the maze, while kids of all ages can slide at their own pace or challenge friends to race down them,” MacLeslie said.

The Ice Palace MAZE will be open Jan. 15 through Feb. 20 in The Zephyr Theatre’s parking lot, 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. Hours are 2 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Advance tickets are $20 for ages 13 and older, $12 for ages 5 to 12, free for ages 4 and younger. To order tickets, go to (Tickets at the gate are $2 more.) Covid policy: Masks are required indoors, recommended outdoors.

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