Riding on wings of winter weather, Ice Fest returns this weekend

by Dalton Carver

Like the abundant winter weather that has again graced the region, the annual Ice Festival returns to Ouray this weekend, offering climbers from around the world a chance to test their mettle. This year, the park will be about 98 percent open during the festival, which will feature a new challenge to the Elite Mixed Climbing Competition on Saturday.
In last week’s monthly Ouray Ice Park, Inc. board meeting at the Ouray Community Center, Executive Director Dan Chehayl reported there were about 36 applications submitted by climbers hoping to compete at this year’s Ice Fest.
With the help of Lance Sullins, the event’s first-year competition director, and the OIPI board of directors, those were whittled down to 29 competitors – 23 male and six female. The full list of this year’s mixed climbing competitors can be found at facebook.com/OurayiceparkInc.
Sullins said the selection criteria is somewhat subjective, but a few qualities nearly guarantee a climber’s admission to the competition.
“You’re trying to weigh a lot of factors. The number one factor is prior performance. If people have done well at the Fest before, that’s what gets people in,” said Sullins. “People that are on the world circuit also certainly get a little more attention – I would expect them to know what’s going on and not walk in and realize it’s too difficult to finish.”
Sullins also pays attention to climbers that may be from the local area, as Ice Fest is the local competition for ice climbing. Youth climbers are judged along the same criteria as adults, with Sullins sending back applications from climbers he doesn’t believe will be able to finish the course. Ridgway residents Grant Kleeves and Jonathan Zaugg take to the ice again this year, but not everything will be as familiar as they remember.
New obstacle on comp tower
This year’s competition, scheduled for Jan. 26, will feature...

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