KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Ice climbing is typically considered an extreme and niche sport, left to those brave few willing to venture into the backcountry in search of a frozen waterfall suitable for climbing. However, guests at Big White are able to swap skis for crampons within minutes since the opening of their manmade ice tower in 2010.
In response to growing enthusiasm, Big White will launch an “Ice Climbing Series” this winter. Three winter clinics, led by Canadian ice climbing experts, will culminate in a thrilling Ice Climbing competition. From beginner to expert, Big White is the only ski resort in North America offering this unique experience for all to enjoy. They are also offering 10% off accommodation to course participants and a lift & lodging special from $81 per person, per day.
Custom built and operated by Corporate Heights, the tower is built with 4 telephone poles cross-braced together then flooded with water, the ice tower freezes into 3 feet of thick blue ice. There is a beginner side and three other sides for more advanced climbers with a choice of 19 different routes to get to the top. This is an activity for all fitness levels, and since opening has seen over 3500 people aged from 4 to 78 take up the challenge.
Beginners Clinic: January 19 & 20, 8:30am – 5pm: $300
Jim Ongena will be teaching guests new to the sport how to best scale the 60 foot tower of ice, which looks pretty daunting from the bottom. A professional and passionate climber, Ongena has been climbing for over 41 years and will be covering; equipment use and care, safety checks, knots, climbing techniques, ice tool placement, how to use crampons, belaying skills and rappelling. Ongena is the owner and operator of the Big White Ice Tower so guests will be in good hands with him as their instructor.
Women’s Only Clinic: January 26 &27, 8:30am – 5pm: $300
Climbing guide, Margot Talbot, a writer and climber who has pioneered numerous first ascents of waterfall ice in Canada, instructs the women only clinics. Throwing out the notion that only the herculean can haul themselves up steep ice, Talbot is an inspirational woman who has competed at the ESPN X-Games. The 2-day course will cover the same aspects as the beginner clinic, but with no boys allowed.
Advanced Clinic: February 9 & 10, 8:30am – 5pm: $400
The advanced clinic is designed for people who have some experience climbing ice and want to take their skill level up a notch. Focusing on movement, leading, anchor building and multi-pitch tips, this clinic is lead by one of the best climbers in the world. Will Gadd is a 3-time Gold Medal Winner at the X-Games and former winner of the Ice Climbing World Cup. He is also an award-winning writer, filmmaker and television host, but he’s most famous for being one of the most versatile outdoor professional athletes in the world today.
Ice Tower Competitions: February 23 & 24, 8:30am – 5pm: $75 adult / $20 child
Spread over two days, the ice tower competitions challenge participant speed, skill, and accuracy with climbers vying to take home the title of “Ultimate Ice Man/Woman”. The events include a timed speed competition, number of hits into the ice (the least wins), and “one tool only” where they will be swinging just one axe into the ice. The kids’ event will be held on Feb 23 and the winner will be the one who climbs the highest relative to their own height.
For more information on the ice tower visit: http://www.bigwhite.com/events-and-activities/adventure-winter-activities/ice-climbing-tower. To book accommodation contact Big White Central reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-663-2772 and quote “VG/1213”. For more information on the Ice Climbing Series visit: http://www.corporateheights.ca/?page_id=468.
Located in the picturesque Okanagan Valley and a short 55-minute drive from Kelowna International Airport, the award-winning Big White Ski Resort is British Columbia’s second largest resort and boasts the most ski-in, ski-out accommodation in Canada. Blessed with sunny weather, dry powder and a mild average temperature, Big White is best known as a family friendly resort where kids and adults can all have fun. For more information, visit www.bigwhite.com or call 1-800-663-2772 for reservations and bookings. Follow us on twitter @bigwhite.