About Valdez Ice Fest

Since 1983
An Origin Story Fitting for a Remote Alaskan Town

Andrew Embick moved to Valdez in 1979. He was introduced to ice climbing a few years earlier while attending Havard Medical School. In 1983 he began the Valdez Ice Climbing Festival in partnership with the Valdez Alpine Club (which he helped start as well) and the American Alpine Club. While the majority of participants has always been Alaskans, even in the early years the festival drew climbers from the lower 48 and other parts of the world. The early years we're pretty make shift, some rough clinics, a speed climb, and free lodging at the house of Embick and his wife Dr. Kathy Todd. The festival was set around Washington's Birthday weekend (Presidents' Day weekend). Blue Ice and Black Gold notes that the first 5 years of the festival usually had an attendance of 30-60+ participants.

Link >> AAC Publication on the 5th Annual Valdez Ice Fest.

Embick, Teale, Tureki, Kraemer, Rodrigo Muchia and the Valdez Alpine Club continued this grass roots ice fest. Loosely organized and mostly put together as a "send fest" for like minded climbers. The ice fest was usually of a couple of competitions, spaghetti feed and an informal competition to see who could send the hardest during the week. Occasionally sponsors or big names in the climbing world would attend.

In 2015 Valdez local Nick Weicht, helped steerhead the creation of Levitation 49. It was founded with the statement of being “a non-profit coalition of business, community and governmental leaders interested in fostering national and international amateur and professional mountain sports competitions in Valdez, Alaska.

“Our mission is to create and enhance the economy, image and quality of life in Valdez through the development and promotion of world-class mountain sports events and resources."

Levitation 49 ran the ice climbing festival for a few years before rebranding in 2019 to Valdez Adventure Alliance.

In late 2023 board members and volunteers from Valdez Adventure Alliance split to form Valdez Mountaineering Organization in hopes of refocusing the ice climbing festival and bringing back the rock climbing festival.