Rio Frio returns for 11th year

ALAMOSA — Sub-zero temperatures of late are both a curse and a blessing for the upcoming Rio Frio Ice Fest, unfolding Jan. 24-26 in the “coldest place in the nation.”

“Beach Party” is the theme for the 11th annual event which features the Rio Frio 5K on ice with runners traversing the frozen surface of the Rio Grande. The entire weekend is sponsored by the City of Alamosa, Visit Alamosa and the Alamosa County Chamber of Commerce with a host of local business sponsors as well.

Jes Jolly with Alamosa Parks and Recreation said this week that staff has tested the river ice and found 8 to 10 inches of thickness, literally deep enough to drive a vehicle on. 

The downside is that ice at the nearby Blanca Vista Park is around 16-inches thick and will make a popular event difficult to pull off — the ice carousel.

With that much ice, it would be nearly impossible to saw the oval in the ice and be able to move it with a boat motor as has been done during the last few years.

Instead, a new event has been added “pond curling,” a knock-off of the Winter Olympics event, which will precede the ever-popular polar plunge both on Sunday, which also features the fat bike races for the second year running.

Festivities kick-off Friday night with race packet pick up and registration at Milagros Coffee House with music, games and refreshments from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Participants may also register or pick up race packets from 8-9:30 a.m. at the Alamosa Senior Center in Cole Park prior to the 10 a.m. start of the 5K on the frozen Rio.

Luminaria cross country skiing is planned for Friday evening, as well (6-8 p.m.) at Cattails Golf Course if snow conditions permit, sponsored by the San Juan Nordic Club. Participants must provide their own equipment.



The sixth annual Rio Frio 5K on Ice starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with the uniqueness of running on the frozen river with spectacular mountain views in all directions.

A highlight of each year’s ice fest kicks off at noon Saturday with live ice sculpting on the south side of Main Street between Hunt and Edison avenues.

Award-winning artists from Colorado Ice Sculptures return and will be creating beach party themed sculptures. The featured attractions will be built throughout the day but will be given final touches between noon and 3 p.m.

The beach party continues downtown during that same time frame with a variety of interactive activities for the whole family at San Juan and Main, highlighted by the annual Kiwanis costume contest at 2 p.m. and character “meet and greet” to follow at the SLV Brew Pub.

Children are encouraged to dress in their best beach or fantasy-themed costume. There is no fee to participate, but parents must sign a liability waiver with registration beginning at 1:30 p.m. on site. The first 50 children are guaranteed a participation award and prizes will be awarded to the top winners in each age division.


The annual “Grub ’n’ Pub” event will run from 3-7 p.m. Saturday at various downtown restaurants. A limited number of tickets are available for the Alamosa Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored event and may be purchased at the Depot welcome center or by calling 589-9386. Tickets are good for food sample and/or beverage at each participating restaurant.

A spectacular annual Ice Fest highlight will come to life at 7 p.m. with the fire and ice bonfire on San Juan Avenue.

“Witness these two elements battle it out as the Alamosa Fire Department oversees the burning of a large chimney made of ice,” according to a news release from the city. “Do not miss this spectacular and unique event that celebrates the glory of the day.”


Sunday’s festivities kick off with the second annual Kristi Mountain Sports Fat Bike Races at Blanca Vista Park just north of town at 10 a.m. Participants should bring their fat bike to the park, or rent one on site, to take part in the timed event over a course of snow and ice.

Style points are available for dressing “for a day at the beach.” Sign up at

New this year, pond curling will be featured at 11 a.m. at Blanca Vista Park. “Stones” will be provided, but participants need to bring their own brooms to try out this new, free event for all ages.

Last, but certainly not least, is the annual polar plunge at high noon Sunday, again at Blanca Vista Park. Watch some local celebrities take a dip in the icy waters or come prepared to try it yourself as it is open to the public. Clothing-changing facilities will be available on site.


The Rio Frio Ice Fest is sponsored by the City of Alamosa, Visit Alamosa, the Alamosa Chamber of Commerce, First Southwest Bank, SLV Health, Valley Courier, Valley-Wide Health Systems, Body Tune-Up, First Insurance Services, SLV Federal Bank, SLVREC/CIELLO, Valley Publishing, Viaero Wireless, Adams State Adventure Program, the Alamosa Senior Center, Alcon Construction, Arby’s, Comfort Inn & Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Great Sand Dunes Lodge, Hampton Inn, IHOP, Kristi Mountain Sports, Milagros Coffee House, Rio Grande Savings & Loan, Skiball’s Running World, and SLV