Photo: Stas Tolstnev/Shutterstock

Climbing an Artificial Waterfall at Teton Ice Park

by Adam Roy Dec 28, 2009
With the opening of its new ice climbing park, Wyoming’s Grand Targhee has become the only ski resort where the trip up the mountain is as exciting as the trip down.

TETON ICE PARK is the brainchild of Christian Santelices, chief guide of Exum Mountain Guides and founder of Aerial Boundaries. Using a 3,000 gallon tanker, 250 feet of mining pipe, and an array of low-flow showerheads, Santelices turned a dry rock face near Targhee’s parking lot into a 100-foot-tall frozen waterfall.

In the month since he started farming ice, Santelices has had to deal with a whole host of plumbing problems, including split and frozen pipes.

“I’ve learned a lot about cold-weather plumbing,” said Santelices to Jackson Hole News and Guide. “I didn’t anticipate it would be as challenging as it’s been.”

As the only ice climbing park to be located in a ski resort, Teton Ice is a unique space for training. Aerial Boundaries offers elementary classes on the shallower lower pitches. Climbers don’t need previous experience or equipment, and anyone over the age of 12 can get in on the action.

The upper section of the park is a vertical wall, where more advanced students can practice lead climbing and dry tooling.

The public option

Santelices originally planned Teton Ice Park as a public space. When the park first opened on December 19, experienced climbers with their own equipment could get free access to the wall.

“[Opening day] had a real community feel, a really good vibe,” Santelices told “People were psyched to be there and felt a bit of ownership of the crag.”

Less than a week later, however, the Forest Service, which administers the land on which the park is located, shut down all unguided climbing over liability concerns.

The park has since reopened to the public, but with a catch: climbers can only tackle the wall under the supervision of a guide. Santelices says he’s still working with the park service to reestablish “the public option.”

Community Connection

What are your thoughts on Teton Ice Park’s plan to offer free access to unguided climbers? Sound off in the comments!

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