Ouray Ice Park glows in moonlight. Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter.

Ouray Ice Park glows in moonlight. Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter.

It's almost time to break out those boots, ice tools, and crampons – the "ice farmers" of Ouray Ice Park have just returned to the small southwestern Colorado town of Ouray, also known as the "the Switzerland of America."

The Ouray Ice Park is a human-made ice climbing paradise, nestled in the Uncompahgre Gorge in Ouray. The small town is nicknamed "the Switzerland of America” for its breathtaking scenery of the rugged San Juan Mountains and its world-class hiking, off-roading, and ice-climbing opportunities. The town, itself, is surrounded by sheer cliffs on nearly three full sides along Highway 550 between Ridgway and Silverton.

While the "farmers" are keeping busy with pre-season tasks, it's only a matter of time before the waterfall sculpting beings. Season dates are weather dependent, with the park typically opening in mid-to-late-December and closing in mid-March.

Ouray Ice Park is crafted by ice farmers who spray water down the canyon walls of the naturally cold and shady gorge, sculpting incredible walls of ice through the use of overflow water from the town of Ouray and more than 250 sprinklers. Each winter, the park features more than 100 named ice and mixed climbs, 11 distinct climbing areas, and three miles of vertical terrain.

The mountain town also hosts one of the largest ice climbing events in the world, the Ouray Ice Festival. The four-day festival features ice climbing clinics, gear demos, competitions, attracting climbers from all over the world! This year, the Ouray Ice Festival will be virtual.

Stay tuned for updates, think cold thoughts, and be sure to do your snow dances! Find updates about the ice park on the official website.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.

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