Categories: Climb Like a Local
Known as the "Switzerland of America," the stunning Ouray, Colorado is home to the infamous Ouray Ice Park. After getting a taste of this ice climber’s paradise, with its 200+ ice and mixed routes, you'll be spoiled for life.
Photo: Ouray Ice Park | © Keenan Harvey
Local Vibe: The park is swarming with ice climbing legends, many of whom have been around since the park’s early days. Don't be surprised if you find yourself climbing right next to the badass who put up the route you’re on. Make no mistake, this town takes its ice climbing seriously, but it also seriously welcoming to newcomers. If you've never ice climbed before, or are looking to up your game, be sure to check out the annual Ouray Ice Festival in January—it's full of clinics, gear demos, and dance parties.
Avoid the Crowds: With three miles stacked with climbable terrain, there’s plenty of ice to go around. Moderate crags like the Schoolroom fill up fast on weekends, so be ready to roll when the park opens at 7:30am to avoid waiting in line. Be sure to check out the South Park area, which sees way less traffic than the more central crags.
Local Pet Peeve: Showing up before the park opens or staying after close, leaving ropes up for too long, and monopolizing too many routes with a giant group.
Watch Out: Unless you want to (literally) be a part of the next day's ice formations, we recommend being off the ice by 4:00pm. Spigots come on every afternoon to refresh and reshape the ice—the ice bath starts at 4:00pm in the center of the park and works its way outward. And watch out for exposed irrigation pipes so you don't disturb them with crampons, tools, or running ropes.
Pro Tip: Driving into Ouray is like opening a 'choose your own adventure' book. Where you stay, what you eat, your watering hole, the style of climbing, and how many friendly and incredibly colorful people you meet is all up to you. The second that you think you have the place figured out, think again...there is always a next page. ~Ryan Vachon, Winner of the 2016 Ouray Mixed Climbing Competition