Community Support Saves Bozeman World Cup

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December 3, 2015 - Next week, barring a second act of God, Bozeman, Montana's second annual Ice Climbing World Cup will be held at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. Just two weeks ago, this looked to be nearly impossible.

During the night of November 17–18, winds over 65 mph flattened the tower of scaffolding, wall panels, and platforms that was under construction for the World Cup competition. Joe Josephson, director of the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival, which runs concurrently with the comp, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle the tower was planned to be 65 feet high and would have routes with nearly 60 moves—three times as many as last year’s World Cup in Bozeman.

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When organizers discovered the tower in ruins on November 18, they endured a “morning of despair,” and then set about determining what could be done to save the competition. “We quickly identified four decision points,” Josephson said in an email. “Could we find the materials? Could we find the labor? Could we redesign and address engineering needs? And could we find the money to do all of it?”

Josephson initially estimated $35,000 would be need to replace damaged rental scaffolding and pay for the skilled labor, materials, and engineering to rebuild the tower. (The number later climbed to more than $40,000 as construction estimates came in). World Cup officials and competitors—more than 65 climbers from 12 countries have registered—wondered whether to cancel their flights. On Thursday, November 19, organizers gave themselves and the community four and a half days, until 7 a.m. on November 24, to determine if they could pull it off. That evening they made the announcement: The Bozeman World Cup was on.

“We are still finalizing the numbers, but we've been overwhelmed by the response from the community,” Josephson said. “It was swift and encouraging. It became very clear even before Tuesday that it would be very hard not to give it all we had. So many people around Bozeman and the world have been looking forward to this. The support has been humbling.

Josephson said donations mostly came from the Bozeman area, “but we did receive significant donations from a variety of folks from across the West and the country with strong ties and passion for ice climbing and our event.” He said the single largest contribution ($8,000) had come from the UIAA (international organizer of the World Cup series) and the North Face Korea.

The total of $40,000 raised so far “gets us to the rebuild and immediate damages, but we are absolutely relying on a successful Ice Festival and World Cup to recover long-term,” Josephson said. “That is, we need more than ever for people to show up and attend the events, slide shows, and raffles.

“Jeff Lowe will be here for the entire festival and World Cup as our Master of Ceremonies,” he added. “As the pioneer of modern ice and mixed climbing and creator of the first ice festival and the first ice climbing comp (at the X Games in 1996), we really see this event as a celebration of Jeff's unique and profound influence on this sport.”

The 19th Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival will be December 9–13. Get more info, register for events, or make a donation at BozemanIceFest.com.