The largest ice climbing park in North America is celebrating its 16th anniversary this coming January 10-13th. Located in the Uncompahgre Gorge, the Ouray Ice Park will welcome thousands of ice climbing aficionados, sponsors, pros and aspiring ice toolers to its frozen blue playground for what is considered the ice fest to end all ice fests.
The brainchild of ice climbing pioneer Jeff Lowe, who made the park a reality in 1996, the Ouray Ice Fest is like nothing else. “What I love about this festival,” says SCARPA Athlete Gord McArthur, “is the energy from everyone there. Whether it’s athletes, vacationing climbers, spectators, vendors, whomever—everyone is just super positive, and vibes like that create an atmosphere that is unmatched.” The Park has been owned and managed by the City of Ouray, the nonprofit Ouray Ice Park, Inc. (OIPI), and a mix of other private and public landowners, and the Ice Festival is held every year to celebrate the park and raise funds for its operation. McArthur, alongside other SCARPA athletes, Markus Beck, Kitty Calhoun and Sam Elias will be on hand teaching a variety of clinics during the festival.
The Festival brings together the top ice and mixed climbing competitors from around the globe to test their metal. This year the Elite Mixed Climbing Competition will be held on Saturday, January 12th, and the Hari Berger Speed Climbing Comp will get underway on Sunday. Worldclass climbers will pick, plunge, and stick their way up the routes, while thousands of eager fans cheer them on. “The comp is always fun because it involves the natural landscape—real rock and real ice,” says fellow SCARPA athlete and competitor Sam Elias. “This year is special for a couple reasons. There will be a new permanent, artificial structure at the top of the gorge that will be a part of the difficulty competition. Also, this year there will be the first speed climbing competition. So, both of those should add some more fun and excitement to the festival.”
The Park is located in a beautiful natural setting just outside Ouray. “Nestled in one of the coolest scenic venues I’ve ever seen,” Says McArthur, “you have top dollar climbing within walking distance from your porch.” Most of the 200 routes are within a 15-minutes walk from the entrance, with grades ranging from beginner to state of the art. “I think that the most unique aspect of the festival is the Ice Park itself,” says Elias. “It’s an amazing resource.”
This festival also offers a chance for top manufacturers to highlight their latest gear and apparel, and a venue where climbers of all abilities can learn tricks and techniques from top pros and guides alike. Friday through Sunday, Industry sponsors like SCARPA reveal their latest gadgets and apparel while professional athletes and guides provide nearly 75 interactive clinics to aspiring climbers of all abilities.
Each night participants are welcome to engage in the indoor entertainment back inside, which includes slide shows, presentations (check out Sam’s presentation on Thursday night at the Main St. theater, just prior to the kick off party), Q&A with pro athletes, live auction, and plenty of beer and food.