Tent on ice

Built within a tent, the BLU Ice Bar and Lounge on Lake Superior draws a chill crowd.

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Birds may fly south for the winter, but one Minnesota resort is luring tourists north—with an ice bar built within a tent.

In its third season in 2012–2013, the BLU Ice Bar and Lounge at Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors, Minn., featured a log cabin theme, roaring bonfires and drinks served in ice shot glasses.

“While BLU is made almost entirely of ice, inside the carved ice walls is an inviting area that will simply take your breath away,” says Barb Swenson, marketing director for Odyssey Resorts, which owns Grand Superior Lodge. “From the fur-lined ice benches and star-covered ceiling to the interactive games and signature BLU martini, this is the perfect holiday or winter getaway.”

Odyssey Resorts rented a tent for the bar’s first season, then purchased a 2,000-square-foot pole tent the second year. Despite the sometimes extreme winter weather along Lake Superior’s north shore, problems with the installation have been minimal.

“The only past issues have been with lesser-quality tents and the wind doing damage over the course of the winter,” Swenson says. “In that case, the issue was in the walls/windows tearing, nothing to do with the structure or roof.”

Construction of this season’s bar began in mid-December, with the bar’s opening weekend coinciding appropriately with the winter solstice. Local ice sculptors joined St. Paul Winter Carnival carving champion Chris Swarbrick and internationally acclaimed ice-sculpting performer Peter Slavin in turning 51,000 pounds of ice into the bar, which included a fireplace and mantel with ice-carved trophy fish and game and a 6-foot carved moose in a wall of ice.

The bar contributes to lodging and dining revenue during the winter season and has introduced the lodge to hundreds of day trippers to Lake Superior, Swenson says.

“It is enjoyed by snowmobilers who come by way of Minnesota state snowmobile trails, local residents who especially enjoy bringing visiting family and friends, and has created a statewide if not regional buzz,” she says.

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