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Explore The Ouray Ice Park

Updated on October 6, 2014

An Adventure Awaits!

Ouray, a quaint mountain town located in Western Colorado, has something unique and unparalleled in the world - an ice park, devoted exclusively to ice climbing.  The park boasts hundreds of climbing routes over dramatic frozen waterfalls covering many miles of pristine mountain terrain. Its free and run by a volunteer made non profit organization. From beginner to more advanced, climbers of all levels come to this winter wonderland to enjoy the ice, test their climbing skills and relax with a fine margarita at the local Mexican resturant or a dip in one of the many the luxurious natural hot springs pools. I have been climbing in Ouray for years and its truly a magical place, I hope to share some of that magic with you here.

History of The Ouray Ice Park

Rise to Greatness

The Ouray Ice Park located in the uncompahgre Gorge in Ouray, first opened in 1995 and was the world's very first park devoted exclusively to the sport of ice climbing.

Ice climbing enthusiasts clad in leather boots, wool stocking caps and gloves with wood shafted ice axes, and flexible crampons, came to climb in Ouray long before the park opened back in the 1970's. Back then, the park looked dramatically different than it does today. It wasn't until the 1990's that some enterprising local climbers came upon the idea to manipulate a nearby water source and start spraying it over the edges of the mile long gorge that the Ouray ice climbing scene began to evolve into its present state.

In 1992, the part of the ice park that lies on privately owned property was leased to the county by a very nice land owner for a mere $1.00 a year for recreational use. Then in 1994 a couple of local visionaries laid out some half inch pvc pipe and the odd assortment of garden hose and sprinkler heads and began to farm ice in the gorge. The results surprised everyone: long steep flows of crystal blue ice on previously blank rock; the Ouray Ice Park had arrived.

Word spread quickly and In January of 1997, Ouray Ice Park Inc. (OIPI) was formed in order to provide some formal organization to what had previously been a loosely organized grassroots effort. Thanks to donations, the park has continued to flourish and in 2001 the park installed a new plumbing system, tapped into the City of Ouray's water resevoir and expanded in size many times over. Today the park is the greatest ice climbing facility in the world.

Ice Climbing at The Ouray Ice Park

and surrounding areas

Ouray is ranked as one of the most popular locations in the world for ice climbing. Not only is the Ice park free, safe, and within walking distance from town, but the surrounding mountains provide numerous spectacular longer and more remote ice-climbing routes as well.

There are a number of world-class outfitters who live in the Ouray area who can teach you how to ice climb if you are interested but not experienced.

The San Juan Mountain Guides and Mountain Madness are just a couple worth checking out.

Learn To Ice CLimb

Ice climbing is exploding in popularity. Advances in equipment and technique have helped make the sport accessible to a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts-and that's where this book -How to Ice Climb! comes into play. Written for beginners and experts alike, How to Ice Climb! is the most complete and up-to-date instructional manual available. It starts with the basics such as equipment, safety, water ice technique, then moves on to thoroughly cover mixed climbing, alpine climbing, leading, and descending.

How to Climb: How to Ice Climb! (How To Climb Series)
How to Climb: How to Ice Climb! (How To Climb Series)

How do you move efficiently on ice? What are the tricks of the top climbers on mixed routes and precarious hanging icicles? What are the most important considerations when buying ice climbing equipment? How strong is ice protection? What are the greatest hazards in ice climbing, and how do you avoid them? This thorough text answers these questions, and hundreds more about alpine ice, waterfall ice, and mixed climbing. This easy-to-read text is the most comprehensive resource on modern ice climbing, providing essential information for beginners and experts alike.


The Ouray Ice Festival

The Ouray Ice Festival, held each year in January, is the premiere international gathering of its kind, with professionals flying in form all over the world year after year to compete, climb, socialize and test out the latest equipment. The festival draws an eclectic gathering of visitors each year from those who climb ice, to those who manufacture gear and those who simply want to watch at a safe distance. The festival was first held in January of 1996 and is 100% locally owned and operated by Ouray Ice Park Inc. It is a major source of funding for the Ouray Ice Park. Proceeds raised from our auctions, slideshows and dinners directly contribute to the operation and maintenance of the facility.

This years festival, to be held Jan 7 - 10, 2010 we will host over 70+ interactive climbing clinics, including 12 extended length climbing seminars of six hours each. Nightly slideshows will feature outstanding world class mountaineers and climbers, great auctions, parties, fundraisers and meals.

Here is a list of the guest speakers announced for 2010 Ice Festival:

Thursday Januray 8: Caroline George

Friday Januray 9: Steve House and Majka Burkart

Saturday Januray 10: Timmy O'Neill

Sunday Januray 11: Dave Nettle

For more information, visit the official Ouray Ice Festival Home page by clicking here

Check Out the 2009 Ice Climbing Fest. Here - FUN!

Get What You Need to Ice Climb Here

Mammut Galaxy 10mm Dynamic Climbing Rope - 60m SuperDry Duodess Orange-Blue
Mammut Galaxy 10mm Dynamic Climbing Rope - 60m SuperDry Duodess Orange-Blue

Light weight and super durable. The Superdry sheath and core treatment discourages water absorption, which makes this an excellent choice for ice climbing. Bicolor shows the halfway point of the rope.

Fusion Ice Tool by Black Diamond
Fusion Ice Tool by Black Diamond

This Fusion Ice tool is the latest in leashless tools with an adjustable pommel that fine tunes the grip's length to match hand size for maximum control, and a curved finger rest to lock the hand into place, to minimize fatigue.

Petzl M10 Crampon Crampons
Petzl M10 Crampon Crampons

These crampons, designed for climbing steep ice, can be dual or mono front point (Which is what I prefer). Petzl gave these crampons a solid frame design for vibration-free kicks and they fit securely on any boot.


Exploring the Town of Ouray

Ouray, often called the Switzerland of America, is situated in a river valley at 7,700 ft. in the heart of the Rocky Mountains

Offering magestic peaks, cascading waterfalls, natural hot springs, and small town charm in addition to the world class ice park, Ouray is a magical vacation destination and well worth a visit.

Getting its start as a mining town, many of the buildings in Ouray are historic having been built between 1880-1900. For example, the beautifully restored Beaumont Hotel & Spa (built 1886), the St. Elmo Hotel (1898), the Miners Hospital (1887), now the Ouray County Historical Museum, and the Walsh Library (1899), to the un-restored Livery Barn (1883) and the Historic Western Hotel Saloon Restaurant (1881). Ouray presents a variety of remarkable old Victorian architecture. On the side streets, classic examples of Victorian homes abound, most of them beautifully restored. In 1983, both the Colorado and National Historic Authorities honored the City of Ouray as a National Historic District.

Ouray is an outdoor enthusiast's dream and the winter months are enchanting. At night when the lights meet the formations of ice and snow they shimmer and glow. This is a beautiful sight to behold while soaking in the natural hot springs after a day out on the ice. There are quite a few hotels which boast their own natural hot springs and there are two community hot springs to enjoy, one in Ouray proper- The Ouray Hot Springs Pool and one just a little ways outside of town -Orvis Hot Springs

photo from:

The Best Places to Stay in Ouray

There are many beautiful places to stay in Ouray. The links below are my recommendations, I have stayed in each of them more than once and they all have something different to offer depending on your needs.

Keep Your Hands Warm - while on the ice, out for a hike, skiing or mounatineering

The right gloves can make all the difference.

Black Diamond Enforcer Glove - Men's Gloves & mitts XS Granite
Black Diamond Enforcer Glove - Men's Gloves & mitts XS Granite

Black Diamond created the Enforcer Glove for ice climbers, alpine climbers, and mountaineers who want bomber knuckle protection, excellent durability, and completely waterproof performance. Thanks to a Schoeller shell, a leather palm, and a Gore-Tex insert, the Enforcer Glove meets all these needs with ease. The Enforcer Glove's D30 padding protects your knuckles so well that you won't even notice when you get all rubber-armed and bash them into the ice.


All photos on this page are from my trips to Ouray or from my friends unless otherwise noted.

Thanks For Visiting - I'd love to hear from you

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      What great phoots Jason. These are some of the best phoots I've seen . one can truly see the passion for your work through the lens of your camera.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I am forever indebted to you for this inofomatirn.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      wow, this ice park looks great. Nice lens too!

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Your excellent lens got me thinking of my late brother who loved ice climbing. Thanks

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Love the pictures.

    • lolicious profile image


      8 years ago

      5 star lens, definitely interesting

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      It's a really cool place, isn't it? I'd love to visit during the Ice Festival, but I've yet to go to Ouray in the winter.

      I'm lensrolling you back!

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 

      8 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      Ouray likes like a stunning place. I'd love to see it for myself one day

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Blessed by a Squid Angel

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I stay cold so don't think I would enjoy Ice Climbing but I did enjoy this lens and learning about The Ouray Ice Park


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