“Everything is made out of ice: the bar, the barstools, the sofas, the chairs, the tables, glasses that you can actually drink out of, even the logos for sponsors, who we couldn’t do it without – all made out of ice,” says Scott Luper, regional director of food and beverage at Ocean Properties. He’s referring to the annual Glacier Ice Bars that premier each January for two weekends at Opal resorts, The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, New York, and Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine. Set on the patios outside the restaurant lounges, these icy extravaganzas have become an annual wintertime tradition since first premiering in 2014, drawing tourists and locals alike to sip on the coldest cocktails around in one of the most unique settings (in previous years, there was even an ice piano inset with a functioning keyboard for visitors to play). So what does it take to pull such a display off?
75,000 Pounds of Ice
It all starts with 250 300-pound blocks of ice and a 10-person sculpting team, which includes directors of food and beverage, executive chefs, and members of other resort culinary teams. The hulking blocks are unloaded with hand trucks and lugged around before the carving commences. Chainsaws, ice chisels, and hot aluminum pieces chip away and shape the blocks. Then, for lack of a better word, they’re glued together. “When the ice freezes together, you go ahead and outline what you’re going to do, and you start detailing them,” says Luper. “It’s not easy work. We’ve had to scramble a couple times when we had warm Januarys and things melted and we had to rebuild.”
A Resident Ice-Carving Expert
A handful of members on the team carve ice, but the “main guy” is Samoset Resort Executive Chef Tim Pierce. He got a brief taste of ice sculpting when he studied at the Culinary Institute of America and he’s since sculpted now and again since 1992. “Over the years, I’ve worked at places that gave me chances here and there to carve, but the Glacier Ice Bars are more than I had ever done,” says Pierce. “It’s like any creative thing; the better you get at it, the more you want to try and keep improving. I have a bucket list of things I want to carve.”
Themes & Interactive Pieces
Interactive pieces – like the ice piano and sculpted characters guests can throw an arm around for photo opps – are always the biggest hits, as well ice luges that are on each end of the bar. There’s always an overarching theme tied to the creations, too. “Last year, the theme was polar bears. The back bar was done to look like a big glacier, and then we sculpted these massive polar bears that stood 16 feet tall,” says Luper. The theme for 2018? “Likely something Star Wars–inspired,” says Pierce. “We haven’t finalized it yet, but expect characters like R2D2, C3PO, and BB8, to make an appearance.”