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You may not know that the Southfork Valley west of Cody is known for its winter ice climbing. In fact, it is considered the best place in the lower 48 to go ice climbing. Each February, ice climbers from all over the country flock to this area for the annual Waterfall Ice Festival to climb, learn and socialize with others passionate about the sport. This year’s event is the 14thannual and will be held February 17-20th. The festival has clinics on the Southfork each day with dinner and evening events at the Cody Auditorium.

Ice Climbing in Cody/Yellowstone Country

This year’s event includes a slide presentation by Pete Tapley, professional guide, writer, photographer and videographer on Friday evening. A silent auction and presentation by Ralph Tingery, “The Grand Rescue: A True Story of 1967 Teton Rangers” will round out the day on Saturday. Sunday evening will conclude the event with a pizza party, slide show and music. These events are open to the public.

Ice Climbing in Cody/Yellowstone Country 1

Event organizer, Don Foote, says that this year’s event has the most participants the festival has ever seen. Foote says that the festival has “some of the best instructors, guides, professional athletes and gear reps supporting us and helping the clinics be safe, successful and fun for all ice climbers.” Local company, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides will be helping in the clinics as well as Montana Alpine Guides from Bozeman, MT. Foote reports that the Southfork ice is in its prime right now and has seen little activity this winter.

Ice Climbing in Cody/Yellowstone Country 2

Sunlight Sports in downtown Cody is the spot to get outfitted for your climbing adventure. They have a full line of ice climbing gear to rent, including ice tools, crampons and boots. Owner Wes Allen says they will have a 40% off sale on ice-specific gear that weekend. He also says they are the only place in town with the Joe Josephson guide to the South Fork and the classic Todd Cozzens map. Sunlight Sports also carries a wide variety of quality outdoor clothing and gear. Be sure to stop in!

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For those not climbing, it is worth the beautiful ride up the Southfork to watch.  In the winter, big horn sheep are all over the valley. You may even spot a moose, elk or a bald eagle on your drive.  There are several spots along the road to watch the climber’s progress. Back in town, be sure to hit the downtown shops, restaurants and Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Another highlight is the city of Cody’s wonderful recreation center that is a great spot for swimming and exercise for those waiting for their climbers. Daily passes are very reasonable.

Whether you are a participant or just want to hang out and learn more about the sport, this festival will not disappoint. Experience Cody during a great winter festival! To learn more about the festival visit We hope to see you in Cody!

Until next time, I’ll be lovin’ life in Buffalo Bill’s Country!