A wintry children’s fantasy has taken shape in the White family’s yard in Red Deer.
Donnie White has created an impressive ice castle, complete with crenelated walls, a pair of slides and a 2.5-metre tall archway. The labour of love was completed for his three children from stacked ice slabs, cut from a creek near Lacombe. The structure takes up virtually his whole front lawn on Abel Close in Anders.
White’s daughter Minette, age five, and son Mateo, three, like climbing the ice stairs inside fortress walls. They also enjoy zooming down two half-pipe slides on their bellies, or on the sleds they got for Christmas.
“They love it. We play in it every day, and they’re already planning what we should build next year,” said White, whose youngest son, five month-old Jasper, will soon get to join in the outdoor fun.
The local dad wanted a snow fort while he was growing up in the Prince George, B.C. area. As an only child, he hoped his father would help him build it. Instead, his dad flooded the family’s backyard to create a private ice rink so little Donnie could play hockey.
That was pretty cool, said White — but it wasn’t the fort he’d been dreaming of.
Now he gets to plan and create his own ice fortresses, which he’s been building since 2015. White said his goal is to give his three children “an awesome childhood.”
His first attempt was at his former residence in West Park. White also created a smaller fort at his current Anders address last winter. Since his kids had clamoured for slides, this year’s more elaborate version has the two half-pipe ramps, said White.
Gathering ice for the project took four trips to Lacombe, where White removed heavy blocks from a creek on a friend’s property. The Red Deer entrepreneur, who details oilfield trucks, described using a chainsaw to cut giant blocks of ice. With the help of his father-in-law and a friend, he created a ramp to pulled them out of the creek with an ATV. The ice blocks were later cut down in size, then hauled to Red Deer in a trailer.
They mostly sat in his yard over Christmas, until White had time to stack them over the last three weeks, binding them with a snow and water mortar. He worked through frigid weather to finish the project, but was too busy to feel the cold.
His fort has been catching the eye of neighbours, as well as approving motorists, who “have taken pictures and cheered” him on, said White.