The Town of Ouray’s renowned ice park will be a hub of climbing, activity and competition this week as the Ouray Ice Festival — considered one of the world’s premiere ice climbing events — gets under way.
Things kick off Thursday at the Ouray Ice Park south of town as well as venues in Ouray, and will run until Sunday. The festival features events covering the gamut of ice climbing, from clinics, slide shows, films and kids events to equipment demos and demonstrations. But the festival’s highlights are the ice-climbing competitions, which feature some of the world’s leading professional climbers. Competitions start Saturday with a mixed climbing event with 24 competitors, and on Sunday a speed round starts with between 35 and 40 competitors.
“We usually have about 3,000 to 4,000 people, and this year we are expecting a big crowd because our competition structure is pretty impressive and the viewing is really good,” said Ouray Ice Park Board President Mike MacLeod. “Even if you don’t know the first thing about ice climbing is the competition is going to be pretty exciting to watch this year.”
The Ouray Ice Park features ice walls and a 25-foot tower overhanging the Uncompahgre Gorge. Along with Ouray’s panoramic views, the park offers easy to difficult routes. Ice climbers have been coming to Ouray for decades, but since the early 1990s the park’s ice has been augmented for more abundance.