Rockfall Wrecked the Ouray Ice Park, Now What?

Rockfall has destroyed a bridge and the water supply line that feeds 70% of the park.

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Sometime between the evening of March 15 and the morning of March 16, Colorado’s Ouray Ice Park was struck by catastrophe. Due to the Spring freeze-thaw cycle, an estimated 12,000 pounds of rockfall broke from the cliffs above and destroyed the Trestle bridge entrance to the park, as well as the water pipeline that feeds the south end of the ice farming infrastructure. Luckily, the rockfall came in the dead of night and no humans were present. The ice park has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the repairs.

“The iconic Trestle access into the park and to the School Room was destroyed,” said Peter O’Neil, executive director of the park. “If we don’t reconnect the Yelomine pipe, we cannot farm ice in the School Room, New Funtier, or South Park.”

Roughly 70% of the ice climbing routes in the park would be offline if the water supply line was not restored. Without repairing these two crucial pieces of infrastructure, the Ouray Ice Park would be unable to reopen for the 2022 season, but O’Neil is confident they’ll be able to make it happen.

The Ouray Ice Park is a man-made ice climbing wonderland located just walking distance from downtown Ouray, CO. The park is home to over 100 ice and mixed routes, most of which are within a 15-minute walk of the entrance. It is common to find first time ice climbers swinging axes alongside seasoned alpinists hucking themselves at hard mixed lines at the park. The Ouray Ice Festival and Competition is one of the most-popular ice climbing festivals there is, each year beckoning climbers from all corners of the globe.

With the financial support of climbers and the concerted effort from the Ouray ice farmers, O’Neil has hope for the future: “We have the spring, summer and fall to get everything working. Repairs to the water system will be made so that we can open next season.  Maybe not repaired in the way we would prefer, but we will do our damndest to make that part happen. Replacing the iconic Trestle access into the School Room is going to be a much bigger project.”

The destroyed section of the Ouray Ice Park’s Trestle bridge and penstock pipe, now pouring water into the canyon below. Photo: Courtesy Peter O’Neil

The Ouray Ice Park is operated by Ouray Ice Park, Inc. (OIPI), which is a small nonprofit. Access to the park is free, and the nonprofit is funded solely by donations. Estimated costs to remove the debris and rebuild the bridge and pipeline exceed $100,000, a price tag that OIPI does not have the means to meet. Within the first 24 hours of the fundraiser, the climbing community rallied together and met the initial goal of $50,000. Blown away by the generosity of the community, OIPI increased the fundraising goal to $100,000.  Thanks to the outpouring of donations, O’Neil now hopes they will be able to build back better than before. Visit their GoFundMe page to contribute to the rebuilding of the Ouray Ice Park in the 2022 season.