This year’s Ice Festival, held at Sandstone’s Robinson Park, had the largest attendance yet according the the Minnesota Climber’s Association President James Loveridge. Despite the cold weather, nearly 200 people came out to sample the ice, Loveridge said.
“We appreciate and are grateful to the City of Sandstone for their the support,” said Loveridge. “We couldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for them.”
The support from the City of Sandstone Loveridge is referring to is what’s called “ice-farming.” Loveridge said that the ice climbing clinic fees, which are held as part of the ice festival, go directly toward producing ice attached to the cliffs in which the participants climb on. But the City of Sandstone put a hydrant at the top of the cliff. From the hydrant, 300 feet of hose runs to irrigate the cliffs which in turn, created the massive ice structures to climb. This is what’s referred to as “ice-farming.” Loveridge said the organization now has enough funding to expand the hoses another 80-100 feet.
According to Loveridge, only three or four other places in the world have this type of man-made activity. The ice park which the Sandstone Ice Festival is modeled after is in Ouray, CO called Ouray Ice Park. This park is free, similar to Robinson Park, and is one of the world’s premier ice climbing venues.
Loveridge stated that about 96 people attended the clinics offered over the weekend, and 100 people attended the evening festitivites at the Audubon Center of the North Woods located just west of Sandstone.
People who attended mostly came from the Twin Cities and Duluth metro areas. But the Sandstone Ice Park (which is run by the Minnesota Climbers Association with the support of the city of Sandstone) also attracts people from Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri.
“It’s a great venue for beginners as all climbs are Top-Rope friendly (the safest way to climb),” said Loveridge.
To create the beautiful display of lights for an evening climb, standard holiday rope lights are hung from the cliff and then covered with water to freeze onto the cliff. They are powered by a solar panel hooked up to a deep cycle battery, explained Loveridge.
Many of the climbers camp on site during the ice festival, or they stay in local hotels or at an Audubon Center room.
“I would like to give a special thank you to Tony Vavricka (of Sandstone) who runs Hard Water Sports Guide Service,” added Loveridge. “He started the festival.”
Now the Minnesota Climbers Association has taken over the festival.
“We are looking forward to working with him in the future,” said Loveridge.