The world’s first ice climbing park is celebrating its 15th anniversary this coming January. Ouray, Colorado was once a booming mining town, but now ice is the gold standard. With over 200 ice and mixed climbs, the Ouray Ice Park is one of the largest ice climbing meccas in North America. And this coming January 5-8th, climbers of all abilities will make their pilgrimage to southwestern Colorado in search of ice, camaraderie and glory.
The Ouray Ice Park was the brainchild of ice climbing pioneer Jeff Lowe, who made the park a reality in 1996. Since then 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. The Ouray Ice Festival is held every year to celebrate the park and raise funds for its operation.
The Festival brings together the top ice and mixed climbing competitors from around the world to test their metal, 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. And while the competition pits the best climbers against steep ice, rock, wood and plastic, the winners seem to be everyone who merely attends the festival. “It’s the biggest gathering of the ice climbing community in North America,” says SCARPA athlete and former competition winner Will Gadd. “It’s a party, a showcase, a competition and festival of all that is icy in the world. But what sets the Ouray Ice Festival apart is the community spirit that produced the festival, and the ice park in the first place.”
The Park is located in a beautiful natural gorge just outside Ouray. Most of the routes are within a 15-minutes walk from the entrance, making the access a no-brainer. “I think what makes Ouray unique is the accessibility,” says SCARPA athlete Gord McArthur. “It’s a well maintained/user friendly place for all levels of climbing.”
Friday through Sunday, Outdoor Gear Manufacturers reveal their latest gadgets and apparel while professional athletes and guide provide nearly 75 interactive clinics to aspiring climbers of all abilities. SCARPA athletes such as Sam Elias and Kitty Calhoun will be leading intermediate ice clinics throughout the weekend. Room is limited, so be sure to sign up beforehand.
Each night participants are welcome to engage in the indoor entertainment back in Ouray, which includes slide shows, presentations, Q&A with pro athletes, live auction, the REEL ROCK film tour, and plenty of New Belgium beer and food.
“The Ouray Ice Park is truly unique,” adds Gadd. “There’s just nothing like it anywhere in the world. Many people probably won’t realize how many different people have given freely of their time, energy and money to make the park a reality.”