Warm temperatures during the month of November and into early December may keep climbers at bay from the scheduled Saturday, Dec. 15 opening day.
A walk through by the Ouray Ice Park Board of Directors and staff on Wednesday, Dec. 12 will determine if safety and ice conditions are right for the park to open, according to a press release received on Friday, Dec. 7 from Ouray Ice Park, Inc.
“Ideally, the temperature needs to stay at 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit for seven to ten days in a row. That’s the ideal ice making temperature,” Ouray Ice Park Executive Director Erin Eddy said in an interview Friday.
With temperatures averaging in the high 30s to low 40s last week, the ice may not be ready in time for opening day, but most certainly for the 13th Annual Ouray Ice Festival, slated for Jan. 9-13. The festival will boast numerous world-class competitors who will display their talents in exhibitions and competitions.
This season, a reported 180-plus challenging routes will be offered at the one-mile long park, which is located in the Uncompahgre Gorge on the south end of Ouray on private property owned by Kevin Jacobsen, who leases the property to the City of Ouray.
The park opened in 1995 as the world’s first location devoted exclusively to the sport of ice climbing.
Despite a possible delayed opening, Eddy remained optimistic about the park’s newest features that will make the park more accessible to kids and individuals with disabilities.
A new handicap compliant viewing stand that extends over the gorge has been built. “It’s amazing, like standing in free space,” Eddy said. Accessibility to the feature is an important new draw. “You can literally drive your car up to this new spot, accessible even for those with disabilities,” he said.
The Kids Wall is another new element that Eddy said, “will genuinely change the face of the ice park and open it up to families and kids.”
Jacobsen has donated a building on his property at the Upper Bridge Area to the Ouray Ice Park, which, once renovated, will house a staffed greeting center where visitors can ask questions and learn the park’s rules.
Opening day, whether Saturday or later, will see the dedication of the building to climbers and friends of the ice park who have passed away, such as former Ouray Ice Festival competitor Harald Berger, who died in a climbing accident in his native Austria three weeks before the 2007 Ouray Ice Festival.
The park remains a free-climbing facility through its memberships and sponsorships. Memberships are $40 for an individual, $105 for a three-year individual or $150 for a family (four persons).
For more information about the Ouray Ice Park, call 325-4288 or visit www.ourayicepark.com.