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Serge Marin and Theresa Chan from California and Laura Crelly of Lakeville, Minn., posed at the Blu Ice Bar last week. The bar, located at Grand Superior Lodge, 11 miles north of Two Harbors on Highway 61, opened its doors on Dec. 20. Photo by Ken Vogel.

Chilling at the Blu Ice Bar

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Ken Vogel

Inside the Blu Ice Bar at Grand Superior Lodge in Castle Danger, the resounding echo of the word “unique” can be heard from wall to wall. The winter attraction now in its fourth year has become a gathering place for tourists and local residents alike. The outdoor bar is located in a large tent between the main lodge entrance and the parking lot.

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The bar, tables and seats have all been carved from ice. The upcoming Winter Olympics was appropriately chosen as the theme by the resort staff for this year’s ice bar. The dazzling display of backlit ice carvings includes a racing bobsledder, a miniature curling table with birch pucks and face-in-hole stand-ins, where patrons can become an Olympic cross county or downhill skier. The bar itself is a majestic display of outdoor sporting activity with the Olympic rings above the back of the bar.

“Why wouldn’t we do this?” said Grand Superior Lodge General Manager Chuck Paton. “We live here along the North Shore where people come to enjoy winter; the ice bar seemed like the logical attraction.”

Paton said the opening last weekend produced a great turnout and expects business to remain steady due to the good snow conditions this year.

“I was impressed with the detail of place. It’s like a sports bar where you don’t need TVs,” said Theresa Chan, who was visiting from California.

She was among the enthusiastic crowd inside the tent drinking from solid ice shot glasses or sipping on ice cold beers. Others enjoyed the house specialty, a “Blutini,” a special blend of alcohol along with a dash of dry ice to produce a bubbling, steamy beverage.

“It’s the novelty and curiosity of the place. It is truly unique,” said Laura Crelly, a first-time visitor from Lakeville, Minn.

Steve and Joni Brandt of Two Harbors are annual visitors to the ice bar. This year, they took in a game of table curling while celebrating Joni’s birthday. Steve said

“It’s a yearly thing for me. Last year I really enjoyed the lake trout frozen in the ice. It’s just always a unique night out,” Steve said.

Just outside of the tent, a warm bonfire burns, featuring an all you can eat s’moregasborg with all the fixings to make s’mores. Coffee and hot chocolate are also available.

The artist & sculptor for the project over the last four years is Chris Swarbrick, owner of Ice Occasions in St. Paul. Swarbrick, a winner of three out of the last four St. Paul winter carnival multi-block competitions, is a self-taught ice carver.

The ice bar took about 10 days to construct. Swarbrick explained he uses filtered water with special pumps that circulate the water as it freezes, thus creating a crystal clear 300-pound block of ice. This project used over 500 of those blocks – about 160,000 pounds of ice.

“I just love creating art,” Swarbrick said as he prepares for this year’s St. Paul winter carnival, beginning on Jan. 23. “I start with a chain saw and move down to die grinders with special bits. It is my expression in an art form”.

Paton says the Blu Ice Bar will be open on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. He added that the Splashing Rock Restaurant will also be open for patrons and that Blu Ice Bar apparel & merchandise is also available in the lodge.

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