Presented by Asolo and Rock and Ice, the annual celebration of all things icy is replete with climbing clinics, free zip-line rides and walk-up climbing for adults and children, two exciting climbing competitions on Saturday and Sunday, and a full schedule of evening entertainment in downtown Ouray.
The Ouray Ice Festival is billed as North America’s largest gathering of ice climbers, and is typically attended by upwards of 3,000 participants and onlookers. It all gets underway with a slide show presentation by Sam Elias, a big player in the alpine world who recently returned from an Everest expedition, at the Main Street Theater (630 Main Street) in Ouray, on Thursday, Jan. 10, 6:30-9 p.m., followed by a Kick-off Party at the Beaumont Hotel, 9 -11:30 p.m.
Events continue in town and up at the Ouray Ice Park through Sunday, Jan. 13.
Many Ice Festivarians come to Ouray for the interactive clinics, and a chance to learn from the pros how to improve their technique in a convivial atmosphere while taking advantage of free state-of-the-art demo gear. Clinics are taught by sponsored professional climbers and guides. Topics this year include “Intro to Ice,” “Moderate Mixed” and “Steep Ice Techniques,” starting at just $30. Seminars focused on backcountry skiing and climbing are also available.
While most of the clinics are already full, a few slots remain open and there are always cancellations, said Ouray Ice Park, Inc. president Mike MacLeod. Stop by the San Juan Mountain Guides booth at festival headquarters near the lower bridge of the Ouray Ice Park once the festival gets underway, to find out what kind of last-minute opportunities are available, or visit http://mtnguide.net/ouray-ice-climbing/ouray-ice-festival-clinics/.
Kids (ages 8 and up) and grown-ups can also get a taste of ice climbing for free at the Kids Climbing College and Adult Walk-Up Climbing, with instruction provided by San Juan Mountain Guides. Both offerings take place at the Kids Wall, a beginners area near the Ice Park’s Upper Bridge, from Friday through Sunday. Don’t have any technical gear? Don’t worry. It’s all provided. Climbing is offered on a first-come-first-served basis from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sunday.
Also back by popular demand: the free zip-line ride, for those age 6 and up, across the Uncompahgre Gorge, sponsored by Caldera Mineral Resources and the Ouray County Woman’s Club, Friday, Jan. 11, 12-3 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 13, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
And on Saturday, Jan. 12, check out some of the world’s leading professional climbers – girls and guys alike – in an elite mixed climbing competition featuring $9,000 in prize money. The psych is high for this year’s field of competitors, who will be tackling a route that includes a new 25-foot tower overhanging the Uncompahgre Gorge. Catch the athletes again on Sunday when the Hari Berger Speed Climbing Competition sponsored by Lowa takes place. Competitors will race against the clock on side-by-side columns of ice, with $7,000 in prize money up for grabs.
As evening sets in at the Ice Park, the action shifts back to town, with nightly social events including multi-media presentations about climbing and mountaineering, indoor gear expos, a dinner at the Ouray Community Center on Friday night, Saturday’s late-night Petzl and Arc’terx “Lost in Space” party and much more.
The stellar line-up of evening presenters includes the aforementioned Elias on Thursday, Jan. 10; German Ice Fest darling Ines Papert on Friday, Jan. 11 with her richly illustrated multi-media biopic Rock and Ice, and Hayden Kennedy (son of climbing legend Michael Kennedy) who is an up-and-coming alpinist in his own right. All shows happen at the Main Street Theater at 630 Main Street, just down the street from the post office.
If climbing slideshows aren’t your thing, head over to the Wright Opera House (472 Main Street) on Friday and Saturday nights, where adventure film buffs are in for a treat. Friday at 9 p.m., it’s the world premiere of The Incan Odyssey, a film documenting Marmot athletes Abbey Smith, Pete Takeda and Paige Claassen on a journey to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru to discover unclimbed mountain faces and bouldering adventures at extreme altitude. On Saturday at 8 p.m., award winning photographer, filmmaker and sponsored North Face athlete Cory Richards presents his latest adventure film project.
“Cory is as famous for his photography and film-making as he is for his climbing,” said MacLeod. “He has a mind-boggling alpinist resume and just won an award at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival; it’s kind of a really big deal to get him here to discuss his film projects.”
For more information on the Ouray Ice Park and the Ouray Ice Festival schedule of events, please visit: http://ourayicepark.com/
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR OURAY ICE FESTIVAL
Looking for more ways to get involved? The Ouray Ice Festival runs purely on volunteer power. So far, only about 200 of 300 volunteer slots are filled. Volunteers are especially needed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to help with sign-up and gear-fitting at the Kids Climbing College and Adult Walk-Up Climbing, as well as to help shepherd crowds at the zip-line. In town, volunteer slots are still available for evening events at the Wright Opera House, Ouray Community Center and Main Street Theater. “It’s pretty simple and the time slots are not very long,” said the festival’s logistics coordinator Kentee Pasek. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org