Winona Ice Park hopes to draw visitors during winter season - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Winona Ice Park hopes to draw visitors during winter season

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WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -

Strap on your crampons and grab your ice pick tools! A new ice park in Winona is giving adventurers and tourists the thrill of scaling the city's iconic bluffs.

The Winona Ice Park is located above Highway 61, west of Wood Lawn Cemetery on West Lake Boulevard. This is the first year the park is open to the public, though the idea has been in the works for more than three years.

According to the city of Winona, the ice park "cascades hundreds of feet down the bluffs to create one of the country’s premiere climbing opportunities." The wall was a collaboration between climbing enthusiasts, the Winona State University Outdoor Recreation Center, and the city of Winona.

Ross Greedy, the outdoor recreation coordinator for the Winona Parks and Recreation Department, said there are three ice covered bluffs climbers can conquer. Before implementing the idea for an ice park, Greedy and others tested the ice on private property to do some 'proof of idea.' They later worked with the city to do another test on public property. In 2016, they tested for erosion control and trail maintenance to make sure the bluffs could handle the wear and tear.

The ice park is the fourth to be made using farmed ice in the United States. "Essentially, it's just like you'd flood an ice rink. We take the same concept basically off of a garden hose, but this is a bigger setup. So we run an inch and a half hose," said Greedy. The temperatures need to be in the low 20s to low teens in order to ice farm. Most other ice parks are made with natural ice flows as opposed to farmed ice.

City workers and volunteers wanted to use fine mist, so they accomplished that with shower heads. "We don't have just a flow going over, but the nice mist makes its way down to the base and starts to build ice."

The Winona location is the second in Minnesota. A similar ice park is in Sandstone, Minnesota, while two other parks are in Colorado.

"It's a great way to relieve stress, kicking spikes into the ice and swinging axes." Although, Greedy says, the technique of scaling an ice covered bluff can take some getting used to. "You want to get your feet wide and heels flat so your calves don't start on fire."

If you've never ice climbed, you will want to take a guide with you. Fortunately, the 100-foot climb is a great place for beginners and is free to use.

Greedy hopes the park will attract tourists to Winona during the winter season. So far the park has had a warm reception from both those climbing the icy tower and those who are just as happy to stay on the ground.

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