Unique ice climbing gym gives more people access to the growing sport

Posted at 1:09 PM, Jan 18, 2021

BOULDER, Colo. — The Ice Coop in Colorado is built for ice climbing, but isn’t made of ice. It was built to help people develop skills and strength for the sport all year round.

What people do there is called dry-tooling.

“You start with an ice tool and as you can see it has a very sharp tool at the end and so when you swing this, you bury this into the ice and it’s incredibly strong,” Ice Coop owner Sally Gilman said.

Dry-tooling and climbing in general have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. So much so, rock climbing was added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before it was postponed. Gilman says there’s been a lot of talk about dry-tooling also making its way into the Olympic games.

“My biggest joy is to see people that have never tried the sport in here for the first time and really finding out how fun it is and what a phenomenal workout it is,” Gilman said.

According to Climbing Business Journal, U.S. climbing gyms have been growing in numberfor the past three decades. That’s likely a reason behind the sport’s growing exposure. Gilman says she felt inspired to build the Ice Coop to open the unique sport up to the public.

“To introduce people to the sport because again there’s a huge barrier – the equipment is very expensive, there’s a lot of it, getting to the ice can be very intimidating unless you know where you’re going and you have somebody to mentor you – so I wanted a place that could introduce the sport of ice climbing to folks like climbing gyms do for folks wanting to rock climb,” Gilman said.

The Ice Coop and its dry-tooling walls are currently one-of-a-kind in North America. Gilman says she’s the first dry-tooling gym where people can come in off the street to buy a membership and have the equipment and expertise available to get started.

“That’s where a place like this is really wonderful because you can come here and meet really experienced people who have been doing this sport for years and know it intimately,” Gilman said.

Gilman says she hopes the love people have for the sport and the climbing community continue to grow. She thinks anyone and everyone should have the ability to experience the bliss of climbing on ice.

“Oh it’s so beautiful," Gilman said. "When you are up there on an ice flow and you’re looking around you, it’s just an incredible feeling. You’re just doing something that is very very unique and it’s giving you a perspective that so few people get to enjoy.”