Most National Parks and Forests are known for their stunning species of flora and fauna against the backdrop of greens and browns. However, this National Forest is renowned for shades of blue and white.
As the winds start ushering in winter in the beginning of November, Ice Farmers head towards the south of Ouray, Colorado. There lies the San Juan National Forest where the earth split open at the Red Mountain Creek resulting in the Uncompahgre Gorge.
Ice Farmers jet water down the walls of the gorge, producing spectacular displays of ice walls. The rugged surface of thick ice solidifies over time, mimicking the sturdiness of the walls on which it is built. Stretched over almost 2 kilometres of the Uncompahgre Gorge, the towering sheets of ice form Ouray Ice Park.
This Park houses 150 manmade ice and mixed climbs, 11 climbing areas, and 4.8 kilometers of vertical terrain. The Park has a mix of manmade and natural elements which makes it unique. While the gorge walls were a gift from Mother Nature, the people decided to create a winter sport out of it! Since this elegant combination can only be done in frosty weather, the Park is only open mid-December to late March.
Whether you are a lover of extreme sports or not, Ouray Ice Park should be pinned on your list of must-visit places! For extreme sports lovers, this Ice Park is a top-tier destination for ice climbing. Indulge yourself in scaling the icy terrain and admire the way ice mimics the last movement of a liquid right before it solidifies.
The Park does not offer their own services but there are permitted companies that are licensed to operate guided tours and climbs. So, if you are a novice climber, fear not! For experienced climbers who prefer to scale the walls on their own, there are maps which can lead you to the different climbing zones.
If you are there to admire the views, grab a map and head off on a day of exploration! Maps can be downloaded from the website free and the entrance into the Park is free at all times as well.
Things to note:
While the Ice Park is safe, even for novice explorers, always be prepared! Pile on appropriate amounts of clothing to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. These are real dangers as you will be there during winter where temperatures can dip below 0 degrees Celsius.
Before climbing check and recheck safety gears. Ensure that your ropes are tight, helmet is fitted and ice axe is sturdy. These will increase how protected you are and prevent serious injuries.