Teton Ice Park Opens, Models Ouray

Posted on: December 24, 2009


Gaither Campbell on Gully Buttress, KB Wall, Teton Ice Park, Alta, Wyoming. The park, founded by Christian Santelices and modeled after Ouray Ice Park, opened Saturday to welcoming locals. [Photo] Christian Santelices

A few dozen climbers gathered with picks and crampons to celebrate the grand opening of the Teton Ice Park on Saturday. The facility is a burgeoning ice-climbing playground at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming, that provides free access for experienced climbers with gear, and paid instruction for those who want to learn.

Teton Ice Park's philosophy is similar to the Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado, which opened in 1994 and is now one of the world's biggest and best. At Ouray, climbing is free but paying for a yearlong membership has benefits—it helps keep the ice growing and offers member discounts at local businesses that support the project. This bonds ice climbers with the local community and brings in more visitors, said Christian Santelices, who's trying to accomplish those same goals with the Teton Ice Park.

Aerial Boundaries guide Mattie Sheafor drytooling at Teton Ice Park. [Photo] Christian Santelices

"For us the sponsorships and memberships are important," Santelices told the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Memberships to Teton Ice Park are $40. "We want this to be a long-term sustainable amenity that everybody can use. We're psyched to offer that to the public and in order for that we need support from the community to keep it running."

Santelices is chief guide for Exum and founder of Aerial Boundaries. As much as he hopes the community will support the project, he also hopes the project will support the community, and his own guiding work. "The main reason I started it was to provide myself and other local guides another place to work," he said. "Here in the Tetons, we don't have easy access to ice climbing that we can guide on. The other impetus was to create a good community venue."

Santelices began farming ice on November 29, rigging a 250-foot mining pipe with low-flow showerheads from Parking Lot Rocks to a 3,000-gallon tanker truck. So far, the park offers a modest selection of climbs with plenty of coverage on what he calls KB Wall, a short walk from the Grand Targhee parking lot. The ice band on KB Wall is 100 feet wide and 100 feet tall and has six fixed anchors. The lower 60 feet has lower-angle steps, and the upper section offers steep ice and drytooling.

Though KB wall was the only area ready for opening day, Santelices has plans to grow the park.

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"We already have intention to expand this year, onto a lower cliff," he said. "And in the future, we want to expand in our immediate area—but a lot of that depends on how much sponsorship support we get. The goal is to have more area and to make ice more often and more reliably."

But just this week, the Forest Service called into question the legality of public access due to liability concerns. Santelices has put non-guided access on hold until a new resolution has been worked out.

Beyond this dilemma, to grow the park, Santelices needs cheaper and smarter ways to find water. However, the guide is optimistic. Already he's overcome other problems this winter, including split and frozen pipes.

And, now that the park is open, he has another reason to find solutions: the positive feedback and support of fellow climbers.

"It had a real community feel, a really good vibe," Santelices said of opening day. "People were psyched to be there and felt a bit of ownership of the crag, all looking around and saying, 'Wow, look what we've got now.'"

Sources: Christian Santelices, tetonicepark.com, jhnewsandguide.com

Climbers swarm KB Wall opening day. [Photo] Christian Santelices

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