Since 1994, the Ouray Ice Festival has been the pinnacle of ice climbing events, and it happens in a town that considers itself the Switzerland of the U.S. The festival takes place at the Ouray Ice Park, which was inspired when a leaky pipe from the Uncompahgre River diversion dam created a massive icicle in a nearby gorge that was bigger than any naturally occurring ice formations. It also made for the perfect ice climb. After years of fundraising and volunteer support spearheaded by the ice festival, the ice park now uses a sprinkler system to create 200 ice climbs that are free and open to the public from January through April.
Though the eighty-plus climbing clinics offered during the weekend-long festival have sold out, theres still plenty to do. The festival begins tonight with local guide Clint Cooks slide show of San Juan Mountain ice climbs, but the main competition is on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., when seasoned climbers go head to head a challenge that makes for an awesome spectator sport. Its kind of like the X Games for climbers, says festival director Erin Eddy. Also on the agenda are a daily outdoor bazaar, nightly speakers, fundraising dinners/auctions and parties.
Cooks slide show starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Street Theater, 630 Main Street; a $10 ticket includes New Belgium beer. For a complete schedule, visit www.ourayicefestival.com or call 1-970-325-4288.
Jan. 9-13, 2009