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What Is Ice Climbing And Why Is Ouray, Colorado Known For It?

You may have heard of ice climbing before, but did you know that Ouray Colorado is known as the "Ice Climbing Capital of the World"?

Ice climbing is a winter sport that is not for the faint of heart! It requires great strength, endurance, and technique. It is known for being a challenging and thrilling experience for even well-experienced climbers. As the name implies, ice climbing involves climbing frozen waterfalls, icefalls, and other icy surfaces using specialized equipment such as ice axes, crampons, and ropes.  

If you have been to or heard of Ouray, Colorado, then you know that it is known as “The Switzerland of America” due to the town being surrounded by the San Juan Mountains creating breathtaking views from the steep, jagged terrain. These mountains receive a lot of snowfall and create the ideal conditions for ice formation. With its unique geography and abundance of frozen waterfalls and ice formations created by the melting snow, Ouray became the perfect destination for ice climbing.

A man-made ice climbing park was built right in Ouray called the Ouray Ice Park, which provides climbers with a controlled environment to practice and improve their skills. It features over 200 ice and mixed climbing routes, ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert – so there is something for everyone!

 In January of 1996, the first Ice Festival was held at the Ouray Ice Park and has continued to be a yearly tradition in the town ever since. This festival has grown immensely in popularity over the years and attracts ice climbers from all over the world! The festival features more than just ice climbing such as clinics, competitions, gear demos, and social events, it has become a well-known gathering place for the ice-climbing community.

Even if you aren’t an ice climber, this event is super fun to watch and see just how incredible the icefalls are that cascade into the canyon. The best part is that there are tons of things to do in Ouray, so after you’re done watching the ice climbers you can grab lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants in town, grab a drink at one of the local bars (two of our favs are The Grey Ouray or the Imogene Hotel), or take a soak in the hot springs! 

It may be chilly in the winter months in Ouray, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops! The best part is that it is only 30 minutes away from Montrose – making it the perfect day trip destination!


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