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Building The Ice Maze, A Story of Perseverance

With temperatures being about 30°F below average for much of November and December, this created many unexpected challenges with equipment not being able to work in the extreme temperatures. Still, Cory endured, even if he did have to wait a few days for the temperatures to rise above -15°F so he could use his equipment.

The day before he turned on the water to make ice, a gust of wind came through and blew down everything he had built thus far. In early December, he had to start again.

Once he was able to finally start growing ice, December 17th, he had to keep a pump going that required gas every two hours. This meant he had to be onsite 24/7, and attend to it regularly…so no sleep. During the 9 days that he spent constructing the maze with ice, he worked 186 hours and slept 30.

The actual construction of The Ice Maze, with the ice, was nearly flawless and definitely the smoothest part of the process.

After it was built, the ground had accumulated a few feet of ice, which was expected. However, his plan for busting out the ice on the trails to create walkable pathways wasn’t going to be as quick and efficient as he needed. So, he decided to bring in a mini excavator and hire someone to run it. It’s a tricky job to squeeze a machine that size through the trails of the maze, make the tight turns, and break up the ice on the ground, but not touch the walls. Sky’s Snow Removal & Land Development to the rescue!

It seemed like smooth sailing from here on out and we were about to announce an opening date. That day, the Valley was hit by an insane windstorm with hurricane force winds, gusts up to 90mph. This shut down any progress for 4 days and delayed the opening by a week. After the storm, Cory was met at the maze with an unbelievable mess. His work tent was shredded and his tools scattered in the snow. Eight foot snow drifts covered the entrance to the maze, as well as some of the trails and the lights inside the walls. They used the excavator to help with the clean-up, and some good friends helped hand pick snow out of icicles.

After completion, The Ice Maze was surveyed by CRW Engineering Group, and the results do have it measuring larger than the previous record for the World’s Largest Ice Maze.

Finally, on January 13th, The Ice Maze was open! Walking through the maze for the first time, with the ice glowing from the lights embedded in the walls, the instrumental tunes guiding you through, and the moonglow above was magical!

Cory felt proud, excited, and relieved!

However, the universe was not about to give him a break. The temperatures immediately rose above freezing and there were many more warm days in the long term forecast. Will the ice survive? Will one of the coldest winters on record take a drastic turn and melt the ice long before the end of winter? Or, will Cory finally get his long deserved break, and the cold weather will continue long into spring, allowing his long awaited endeavor to be a success? Only time will tell.

UPDATE:

Well, the answer was “no”. Cory did not get a break, and the warm temperatures did do quite some damage to the ice. The Ice Maze closed on Jan 22 due to ongoing warm and rainy weather, after being open for only 7 days.

But, that didn’t mean it was over. No, no, no, Cory B Livingood won’t quit! He is a force that can’t be stopped! As rebuilding wasn’t part of the initial plan, Cory essentially had to start over in a lot of ways to restore the ice. Some walls needed to be almost completely rebuilt. In six days, working 20+ hours per day, on very little sleep once again, Cory rebuilt The Ice Maze.

After being closed for almost 2 weeks, The Ice Maze will re-open to the public on Friday, February 4th, at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer, Alaska.

The ice is blue, the walls are strong, and the forecast looks comfortably cold, so come on out and visit The Ice Maze!

UPDATE:

Once again, the weather turned warm again. The temperatures rose to nearly 40°F, and stayed high. The Ice Maze had to close for the season after February 20th. It was open for a total of 5 weeks. We expected to be open for at least 3 months.

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