Winter is close! Today, HBO announced the premiere date for Game of Thrones Season 7. This seven-episode seventh season will kick off on Sunday, July 16 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT). Along with this announcement, HBO also released an exciting teaser trailer which features plenty of ominous hints at what lies ahead as this series begins its journey to the end.

Based on the popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, this hit Emmy-winning fantasy series chronicles an epic struggle for power in a vast and violent kingdom. Members of the ensemble cast for the sixth season included Emmy and Golden Globe winner Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Aidan Gillen, Kit Harington, Diana Rigg, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and Jonathan Pryce. Season six credits: executive producers, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger, Bernadette Caulfield; co-executive producers, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis, George R.R. Martin.

HBO has not released a synopsis for the Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere. And the network has kept a pretty tight lid on these upcoming new episodes. The show will have a heavy presence throughout this year's SXSW Festival, which kicked off in Austin, Texas last night. There, festival goers were greeted with quite the surprise as HBO has debuted the first poster for the Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere. This poster doesn't feature any of the actual characters from the show, but it does tease the great battle of ice and fire that is to come.

The backdrop features both ice and fire, symbolizing the White Walkers from North of the Wall that will eventually clash with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her fire-breathing dragons, coming from the south. Since Season 7 will only span seven episodes, with the eighth and final season rumored to span just six episodes, it's unclear how much of this all-out war will take place this season, or if most of it will happen in Season 8.

This announcement comes a few days after Jim Broadbent revealed in an interview that he's playing, "an archmaester" character who appears in five of the seven episodes this season. The actor also revealed that he shot all of his episodes in Belfast, and didn't get to go out on location, while also adding that he shares scenes with Samwell Tarly (John Bradley). There has been speculation that Jim Broadbent is playing Maester Marwyn, although the actor wouldn't confirm if that was the character he's playing or not. In the fourth book A Feast for Crows, when Samwell tells Maester Marwyn about Daenerys and her dragons, he leaves to find her, but he hasn't surfaced in any of the books since then. Since George R.R. Martin still hasn't released the sixth and seventh books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, it remains unclear what happened to Maester Marwyn.

While HBO has kept all plot details for the Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere officially under wraps, there have been a number of tidbits that have surfaced through various interviews with the cast. Maisie Williams who plays Arya Stark, teased there will be a "huge cliffhanger" at the end of Season 7, but naturally she wouldn't divulge any specifics. Iain Glen, who plays Jorah Mormont, teased in late December that the seventh and eighth seasons will be the most extraordinary yet. Ellie Kendrick, who plays Meera, added that she's very excited to see Bran Stark's (Isaac Hempstead Wright) greensight powers on display, which allows him to see the past, present and future.

The Season 6 finale featured a number of interesting revelations, such as the reveal of Jon Snow's true parents, Ned Stark's sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen, which confirmed a popular fan theory that had been circulating for several years. This revelation was made through Bran Stark's greensight, after he was dropped off near The Wall. We also saw Daenerys Targaryen taking her new fleet and sailing to Westeros, while Arya Stark finally showed off the skills she learned from Jaquen H'gar (Tom Wlaschiha) to kill another nefarious name on her list, Walder Frey (David Bradley). With Bran at the Wall and Arya back in Westeros, it is believed that fans will finally get the Stark family reunion they've been waiting for. While we wait for more on Game of Thrones, take a look at the new trailer for Season 7 below along with the first official image.

<strong><em>Game of Thrones</em></strong> Season 7 Premiere Photo