Ice climbing is usually found in remote mountains after an arduous climb. But visitors to Big White Ski Resort can experience the thrill of dancing up ice on the resort's new ice tower without a long approach.
The new ice tower, built on a cluster of four telephone poles, stands 60 feet tall. A garden hose and sprayers mist the tower once a week to keep the ice fresh and at three feet thick. A certified guide from the American Mountain Guides Association hosts novice and experienced climbers alike, who want to test their mettle and speed up the tower.
"It's for all ages, all levels," Jim Ongena, the host guide, told OnTheSnow. "It's an opportunity for people to try something that is usually pretty elusive. A 75-year-old lady from Texas made it to the top yesterday. She was pretty buzzed."
One side of the tower presents an easier climbing face for beginners while three other sides can challenge more experienced climbers. "You can be a person who knows nothing. It's for everyone, including absolute novices who want to give it a shot," said Ongena. Equipment is supplied, including crampons, ice tools, harnesses, helmets, and even gear for kids. All climbers are top roped for safety.
The tower is lit for night climbing, allowing participants a chance to get in a full day of skiing before climbing the ice. "It's lit even inside the ice, so it glows," added Ongena.
Ongena guesses the speed record is about one minute for dancing up the ice. Beginners take quite a bit longer. "The average novice would take about 15 minutes," he estimated.
The ice tower is open noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. One climb costs $20, and an all-day pass costs $55. Season passes are available, and groups can do private function, too.
The ice tower located in the Happy Valley Adventure Center at Big White. Other activities in the adventure center include outdoor ice skating and snow tubing.
More information. Or call 250-491-6111.