By Emily Stifler
Southwest Montana winters are long,
cold and frozen, and if you don’t
embrace them, they feel interminable.
With our plethora of frozen waterfalls,
modern gear and now plowed access
to Hyalite Canyon, ice climbing’s
popularity is growing quickly.

Building on the success of the Bozeman
Boulder Initiative, climbers Conrad
Anker of Bozeman and Joe Josephson
of Livingston have led an initiative
to build an 85-foot ice climbing tower
at Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

“A world class competition structure
would put Bozeman on the map as the
capital of ice climbing in the United
States,” said Anker, an internationally
known mountaineer.

“I think this would catch people’s
attention,” said Bozeman Mayor
Jeff Krauss. The structure would be
visible from I-90 and “would make
a statement” to all driving past, he
said. “I like the fact that we would
have an identity with this extreme
sport. We’re kind of an extreme sports
town…I see this as capitalizing on that
in a big way.”

“We’re working on the design, the
politics, the permission and where
we’re going to put it,” said Josephson,
who also coordinates the Bozeman Ice
Festival. “It’s a long complicated process
that will require a lot of energy
and dedicated effort. But the committee
is optimistic and committed.”

The 20-person organizing committee
consists of local climbers, design professionals
and contractors.

The tower would be a training area for
local climbers, and hopefully bring
the International Mountaineering and
Climbing Federation’s 2013 UIAA
World Cup of Ice Climbing to Bozeman,
according to Josephson. It could
also double as a concert venue and
event center.

Mixed climbing is going to be a
demonstration sport in the 2014
Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and “more
than likely it’ll be a medal sport in
2018, because the Koreans are just
nuts about it,” Josephson added.
Bozeman’s tower would be the only
world cup, Olympic-caliber venue in
North America.

For this year’s Bozeman Ice Fest, the
plan is to build a smaller temporary
structure and hold an ice climbing
competition or exhibition to raise interest
and awareness for the project.

A group of MSU architecture
students recently won a design
contest for the tower. Their design
has angled climbing surfaces for ice,
mixed and rock gym style climbing.
The structure will be built with
stacked, reused shipping containers,
and potentially decommissioned
Bridger Bowl chair lift towers.

Other possible uses include a training
facility for the Gallatin County’s
alpine search and rescue team, an
outdoor skating rink, a concert venue
seating 2,000-3,000, or a hostel
for visiting outdoor recreationalists.
The structure is expected to cost up
to $3 million. But can Bozeman pull
it off?

“Raising the money privately in
Gallatin County would be difficult,”
Mayor Krauss said. “We’re going to
have to have a big name corporate
sponsor associated with the sport, so
we’re going to have to make a case
that this is the place to do it.”

“This would turn the fairgrounds
into an asset to the whole community,”
Krauss continued. “When
we were a big bull selling community,
we sold a lot of bulls and
horses there. It’s still a good facility
for county fairs, the winter fair and
rodeos, but I think it can mean so
much more. All communities look
for something that gives them a solid
identity. Our extreme sports give us
some of that.”

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