Fun with Winter Ice

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Photo credit: Gary Strieker

In Alamosa, it happens every year around this time: the Rio Frio Ice Fest is a 3-day special event involving various winter-based activities such as a 5K run on a frozen river, a faux snowman contest, and a very surprising bonfire.

Many of the events were based on this year’s pirate theme. “Last year, our theme was superheroes, and the year before that it was a hawaiian-beach theme,” explained Jes Jolly, the city’s recreation division manager.

Most of the events took place on Saturday, January 26th, but the event started the day before with cross-country skiing at the golf course.

The second day began with the Rio Frio 5K on Ice, a three-mile-long walk-run held entirely on the Rio Grande. People of all age groups are allowed to enter, and some people even bring their dogs. “My family and I are running together, so I just wanted to make some memories with them,” Luke Brown, one of the younger runners, said.

An hour after the race, the live ice sculpting and faux snowman contest begin. At this time, different shops along Main Street and downtown Alamosa are decorated with either a life-size pirate ice sculpture or a snowman made from just about anything except snow.

“We stacked the ice all day Thursday, cut it yesterday, and I’ll finish today,” said Thomas Barlow, who has been making ice sculptures for over 30 years. “This is actually my first year at Alamosa, but I do big events around the state,” he said, using a chainsaw to shape the final form of a pirate walking the plank.

In the evening that same day, the Fire & Ice Bonfire is held. As the name suggests, a bonfire is lit inside a large chimney…of ice.

These are just a handful of everything that takes place in this winter festival: some of the others include a pirate costume contest, a fat tire bike race, and even an ice carousel on the river. With all of these activities and more, the Rio Frio Ice Fest is a great event to attend by yourself or with your whole family.

The Brown family with their dog, Honey. (Photo credit: Nandi Strieker)
Thomas Barlow cutting the form for his pirate sculpture. (Photo credit: Gary Strieker)