This Tiny Colorado Town Has One of the World’s Largest Ice Parks

In Ouray, Colorado, there's a 1.7-mile-long ice park that you need to see to believe.

A park overview of a group of people ice climbing at Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado

Courtesy of Mountain Trip

Every year, the best of the best — in the ice-climbing world at least — make their way to Ouray, Colorado, a tiny U.S. town that’s barely on the map. They’re here for the ice, which grows dense and strong in the gorge just south of town. The conditions are so perfect that the self-titled “ice mecca” boasts the world’s largest human-made public ice-climbing park — a playground with more than 150 ice and mixed routes that traverse up the sheer walls of the Uncompaghre Gorge.

The ice park is free and open to the public all winter long. The nonprofit operation is unique in that it’s fed from an overflow of water from the city’s spring-fed supply tank. From there, sprinklers and shower heads pump out water to cover the walls of the gorge with beautiful blue-tinted ice. The end result is a 1.7-mile-long ice park with 11 distinct climbing areas and more than 3 miles of vertical terrain, including the 150-foot-high Pic O’Vic route.

A woman ice climbing at Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado

Courtesy of Mountain Trip

The climbing season peaks in January, when the annual Ouray Ice Festival takes place, from Jan. 19 to Jan. 22. For 28 years the event has drawn world-class talent who come to compete in one of two highly entertaining competitions: elite mixed climbing, which includes both rock and ice climbing, and speed climbing. The Ouray Ice Festival has clinics for newbies, and, off the ice, the festival includes fireside chats with the likes of Will Gadd and Dale Remsberg and a presentation by Phil Henderson, who will be leading the first all-Black team on Mount Everest this spring.

You can enter the park, climb on your own, and watch the competitions for free, while tickets to the evening events are $25 a pop. But again, the park is free and open to the public all winter long.

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