By Owen Woods |

THIS year’s theme for the Rio Frio Ice Fest is ‘Under the Sea.’ Ice sculptures, Grub and Pub, and the Rio Frio 5k are all coming back with a sunny and sandy feel. 

However, with the warm weather we’re seeing this month, the planning of the 2022 event has required some pivoting to accommodate the outdoor events. 

Most of the Rio Grande hasn’t frozen over, presenting problems for any kind of running event. Back in 2018, warm weather caused the event to move from the Rio Grande just north to Blanca Vista Park. The same could happen this year.

When asked about whether the Rio might freeze over enough by the 5k on Jan. 29, John Reesor, outdoor recreation supervisor for Alamosa Parks and Recreation, said “it’s not looking promising.” 

There won’t be a fat tire mountain bike race this year. In its place will be a leisurely mountain bike group ride. 

With the alternate race course already lined up, the success of the event isn’t a concern. In Blanca Vista Park, most of the pond’s ice is solid enough to run on, so while it won’t quite be true to its name, the spirit of the Rio Frio Ice Fest will remain. 

That spirit is simple, really: to get people outside during one of the darkest and coldest times in Alamosa. 

John Reesor prepares the path for runners in the 2019 Rio Frio 5K. John Reesor prepares the path for runners in the 2019 Rio Frio 5K.

Reesor’s job is geared toward getting local residents outdoors. Getting outside in the winter seems difficult given the weather and scarce daylight, but events like these are put on to allow for some of that lonely pressure to dissipate. 

Before Reesor worked for the Parks and Rec department, he attended the Rio Frio 5k, saying that getting exercise and fresh air was nice, and that the event “injected some life into town in the middle of the winter.” 

The Ice Fest is well established, and its summer cousin, the Rio Trio, is becoming a part of the establishment. The Rio Trio had its inaugural event last year, which was all due to the creation of the new river access point at the State Street bridge and the Rio Grande Pavilion. It created three miles of easily accessible, floatable Rio. 

Reesor said that the Ice Fest is a flagship event for not only the Parks and Rec department, but for many businesses downtown. 

“We’ve had business owners express the importance of having a lot of people walking downtown looking at the ice sculptures,” he said, mentioning that the Rio Frio Ice Fest is also about attracting visitors to Alamosa during a down time in tourism. In the middle of it all, there is a little “tourism bump.”  

“I see us doing this for many years down the road. The only caveat is if we continue to have unseasonably warm winters. … I think in an average, too-warm year we should still be able to pull it off,” he said. 

PHOTOS courtesy City of Alamosa
TOP: In years past, Rio Frio 5K runners took a route on the frozen Rio Grande

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