“get your axe in gear!”
It's a fact that Colorado is America's winter wonderland, and it's not just because of all of the skiing (although, yes, that's probably a major part of it). The Ouray Ice Park is another reason why it's a great place to soak up the snowy weather: it's one of the best places for ice climbing in the world. And the craziest part? It's all man-made: volunteers spend months pouring water down into the city's Uncompahgre Gorge to build up epic walls of icicles for the adventurous to climb! The story of how Ouray decided to start filling in the canyon with ice is pretty neat: as the legend goes, a leaky pipe formed an icicle into the canyon one winter during the 1980's, and a few enterprising pals decided to gear up with their crampons and ice axes and climb it... but as they did, their equipment punched some more holes into the pipe. The next day, even more ice climbs had formed! Another story has two Ouray hotel owners dreaming up the park as a way to drum up business during the slow winter season. Either way, it's been an official staple of Ouray since 1997, and the ice park has grown quite a bit since its inception. There's now over a mile of vertical climbable terrain total, with over 200 climbs. They start making the ice in November, and it's usually ready by late December. There are a few weeks of solid climbing before it's too warm to keep it going, usually around mid-March. The park is totally free and open to the public, but you can't climb on the ice without the proper equipment (crampons and helmets). They're super happy to help beginngers find classes so they can enjoy one of the many routes up the canyon walls, though! Even if you aren't an ice climber, it's still worth it to stop by and watch the experts do their things-- while enjoying a hot drink from the warming hut atop the canyon, of course. The Ouray Ice Park (the Park) is a manmade ice climbing venue operated in a spectacular natural gorge just outside the town of Ouray, CO. It is home to more than 200 named ice and mixed climbs, most within a 15-minute walk of the Park entrance. The Park and its infrastructure are jointly owned and managed by the City of Ouray, the nonprofit Ouray Ice Park, Inc. (OIPI), and a mix of other private and public landowners. Each winter, OIPI hosts the Ouray Ice Festival to celebrate the Park and raise funds for its operation. The Ouray Ice Festival is a spectacular grassroots event that features exhibition climbing, free clinics, seminars, slide shows, and gear demos. Despite the high cost of its maintenance, the Park remains free and open for public use. In nearly 20 years of operation, it has become one of the premier ice climbing venues in the world.
I get yelled at each year trying to do photographs, there is absolutely no parking and with the Hot Springs ripped up the traffic is nuts. Don't bother.
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Ouray Ice Park.
- Sun, Sat: 7:30 am - 4:00 pm
- Mon - Fri: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
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