CHENA ICE CASTLE (206 KM)
July 13th 2011
Left the dorms early this morning to ride up to Chena Hot Springs for a quick tour of the Ice Museum.
Some info about where we went today and then pictures.
Fairbanks, Alaska is the capital of ice art in the world and home to the World Ice Art Championships. Many top ice artists in the world make Fairbanks their home.
The Aurora Ice Museum was built as a way to boost tourism at Chena Hot Springs Resort, located 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks while simultaneously offering year-round employment for Steve Brice 15 time world ice carving champion and wife Heather Brice six time world ice carving champion.
Chena Hot Springs erected the first version of the Aurora Ice Hotel (now renamed the Aurora Ice Museum in January, 2004. The Ice Hotel was the first of its kind in the United States, and one of just a handful worldwide.
The museum features a gallery and ice bar, overhead chandeliers made of individually carved ice crystals which change color every six seconds mimicing the northern lights, countless sculptures including a gigantic chess set, life sized jousting knights, an ice fireplace and four galleries with varying themes.
The architect of most of the art is 15 time World Ice Art Champion Steve Brice and his wife, Heather, a six time World Ice Art Champion.
While long daylight hours and summer temperatures in the 90ºF range melted the first Aurora Ice Hotel in July, 2004, the project was not abandoned. The second version was completed in January, 2005, with the ambitious goal of making it the only primarily ice structure in the world to stay up on a year round basis.
Because of the high cost of electric power at the site (30¢ per kWh) it was decided to use an absorption chiller design by Energy Concepts Co. and powered by the available geothermal resource to keep the Museum ‘on ice’ year-round.
This chiller was a unique, three pressure design and the first of it’s kind to be built in the world. In September 2005, Chena Hot Springs won an award for the absorption chiller from the Geothermal Resource Council for the best new direct use geothermal project in the United States.
The Ice Museum has been a resounding success, with more than 10,000 visitors touring it each summer. The structure has withstood high temperatures well into the 90ºF range during Fairbanks’ hot summer months.
ICE MUSEUM ABSORPTION CHILLER
The Chena Hot Springs Aurora Ice Museum uses a unique, energy efficient absorption chiller built by Energy Conceptsof Annapolis Maryland to keep the Ice Museum ‘on ice’ year-round. The chiller uses hot water at 165°F from one of our geothermal wells in an absorption refrigeration system similar to one used in a propane refrigerator for an RV. The absorption chiller pumps heat from the ice museum by taking advantage of the low boiling point of ammonia (used as the refrigerant) and the latent heat of evaporation. When high pressure ammonia liquid is expanded into a vapor as part of the refrigeration cycle, a lot of energy (called the latent heat of evaporation) is needed. This energy is ‘pulled’ from the ice museum via a circulating salt brine. An everyday example of how evaporation causes cooling is how you get chilled, even in warm weather, when your skin is wet after getting out of a swimming pool without drying off. As the water evaporates off your body, it ‘pulls’ heat (equivalent to the latent heat of evaporation of water) from your skin, making you cold. Without the Energy Concepts Absorption chiller, Chena Hot Springs would need to run our backup 200 ton Trane vapor compressor chiller, which requires 125kW (1/3 of our total on-site power needs) to operate. The cost in fuel alone to run this unit is $500/day! In contrast, the absorption chiller uses about 12kW to operate.
Now that you got all the interesting facts about this very unique place we will show you what we saw inside. The ride up to the Resort was all paved and leisurely type of ride. We wanted to have an easy day today and will try to get a good nights sleep for our journey up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse 808 KM away from Fairbanks.
We arrived with it sprinkling showers out as usual.
The entire resort has many antique mining equipment and snow mobiles all over all the property. Has sort of a hippy dippy feel to it as we have noticed a theme of hippy dippyness since arriving in Alaska. No offense taken if anyone is from Alaska and reading this, just an observation.
They have a cafe and restaurant up there as well as a lodge. You can stay over night in the ice museum for only $600/night. Many do not last an entire night because it is about 20 degrees F inside and end up in the warm lodge rooms.
No pollution they claim and all due to the use of geothermal technology.
They have hot springs and when we were there they even have very funny looking guests getting all cleansed. The guy in this picture came over to us I guess to have a look because we were in our KLIM gear and did not look as though we were ready to jump in.
The Ice Museum does not look that impressive on the outside but on the inside it is truly a work of art.
The bar is wicked and they were serving drinks but being the responsible riders that we are we had to decline the offer. Besides it would have cost us $30 for 2 drinks. Cost $30 for the 20 min tour.
Inside this igloo there is a working xylophone with wicked acoustics. Of course we had to try it out.
It was really tranquil inside even though there were a bunch of loud Texans in there. I Love Texans they sure know how to have a good time.
They use LED lighting
the detail in the ice is pretty amazing. They also get their own ice about 1/2 mile away from their own source.
I took many pictures because it was so beautiful. Hope no one minds the flood of ice sculptures.
This is Josh our tour guide with a sense of humour
Here we are warming up by the fake fire
In the above picture is the glass they use for the drinks. Of course anyone who bought a drink was allowed to keep the glass but there were no guarantees that it would make it to their vehicle without melting.
This is one of the artists, Heather who makes the glasses in about 3 mins. She also is responsible for creating many of the sculptures we saw along with her husband Steve.
Heather said she can work up to about 2 hours at a time and then needs to come out to warm up for 10 mins. She works 4 days a week.
They have greenhouses on the property and grow their own food.
Some other info we heard. Bernie the owner was once noted in Forbes Magazine for being the worst businessman ever because he had a literal melt down of his ice castle one year and apparently lost a lot of money. We guess he learned from that because this resort is thriving and has visitors from all over the world stopping by to see the museum in the summer.
After we took that all in we headed back to Fairbanks this time in the sun. The day turned out to be partly cloudy and warm. we needed to stop by Wal-mart to get some snacks for the trip tomorrow and I have to say, why does Wal-Mart let people in shopping like this?
Beef jerky is a staple of ours as well as pepperoni sticks, Cliff Bars and 5 Hour energy drinks.
Did some chain maintenance yesterday and not bad I say, not bad. Could be a lot worse.
Got some fast food grub and then got gas, then back to the dorm to take a nap. Cheryl at this moment just past out.
Oiy, what a bad picture but it does say that this type of traveling can even make you want too take a cat nap while waiting for you take out order.
This food does not make you feel that good afterwards. That reminds me, they have a cafeteria here and although the food is not that bad, both Cheryl and I seemed to not really like it about an hour after we ate the “buffet”. If you know what I mean.
we are looking forward to testing out the Dalton. So many different reviews of the road we are hearing but we will soon find out for ourselves. As in any road like this one the weather will no doubt play a part. So, here is to good weather for the next 4 days OK?