The 2013 Ouray Ice Festival was January 11-13. This was my first time to Ouray and the festival. Having only limited ice experience (I've climbed at Lee Vining and June Lake), Ouray was amazing with its short approach to hundreds of routes and great ice. Getting to Ouray can be a bit expensive but well worth the cost.
For those not familiar with Ouray, it is a small town in Colorado that proclaims itself the Switzerland of America. Ouray has natural water ice in the area, and several years back they started putting sprinklers at the top of the Uncompahgre Gorge. That soon turned into the first ice climbing park and now, the Ice Festival is world famous.
The Ice Park is free and has 200+ routes stretching more than one mile of the canyon. During the festival, there are competitions, clinics, gear demos, presentations, auctions, spagetti dinner and every event seemed to have a beer sponsor.
The ice routes are a short walk from town and have a full range of difficulty. Most routes have anchor options so you typically just need a few slings, locking biners and a rope. There are numberous clinics during the festival offered for a reaonable price, but reservations fill up fast. If you're new to ice and looking for instant immersion, or an expert wanting to improve your skills, the Ouray Ice Festival is the place to go.
Maybe some of you will join me next year?? Mark