Many Winona State University students have been taking part in a new sport during the winters: ice farming.
Rebekah Zwiener, a sophomore at Winona State and an employee of the Outdoor Education and Recreation Center, said that in 2016, the new sport was created: ice farming, located between Sugarloaf and Garvin Heights. This sport was created by laying large hoses and tubes over a large cliff and letting the water flow and then freeze. Participants then climb the ice once it is fully frozen.
Chris Weis, an employee at the Outdoor Education and Recreation Center described the gear that students use for the climb.
“You get boots and crampons which go on the tips of your shoes and those are what you use for your feet to jam into the ice, and then you have ice tools like axes that can slice, and a helmet and a harness,” Weis said.
Zwiener said that students are getting a great deal with ice farming through Winona State.
“The boots and crampons alone cost about $600 if you were to purchase those, and the ice tools are about $300 apiece, so we are equipping you with about $1000 worth of equipment for $25,” Zwiener said.
To climb the ice wall, Zwiener said that the student starts at the very bottom of the wall and then steadily moves up to the top. Their harness cables are attached to a large anchor on the very top of the bluff.
“Our boss goes up and sets up top ropes, so we have a permanent anchor tied to the trees and we have a rope coming down and one at end is connected to the belayer and the other side is tied onto the harness. From the bottom, you clamber up with your ice axes and when you’re done, we lower you down,” Zwiener said.
The most enticing aspect of this new sport, besides it being so unique to the Midwest, is the fact that it can accommodate any levels of fitness; the student does not need to be an expert.
According to Zwiener, people should not be intimidated by the nuts and bolts, but just show up to work hard and have fun.
“It’s really fun and hard work but I feel like with all that, you should not be intimidated with the prerequisites. I think it’s so cool to get out of your comfort zone,” Zwiener said.
In addition, the bluff’s beauty is another driving force for the student to climb.
“When you’re up there and going for it, you turn around, you see everything, the top of the bluffs, all of Winona and the river, and the valley, it’s really beautiful,” Zwiener said.
The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.