By Dillon Thomas

DENVER (CBS4) – For the first time ever, the Ice Climbing World Cup finals were hosted in the United States, with Denver serving as the backdrop for the competition. The competition has been hosted in Colorado and other places around the nation. However, prior to 2019, the finals always took place in countries typically on the other side of the world.

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Athletes in the sport say ice climbing is quickly growing in popularity, especially in the United States.

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“It has really been growing in the last year,” said Kendra Stritch, USA Team Manager and athlete.

While there are many different skillsets and compeitions which take place along the ice walls, Saturday’s competitions were focused on speed. Contestants were tasked to climb a wall of ice as fast as possible.

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“(Most people would) be lucky if you got (to the top) in under a minute,” Stritch said. “We are going to see times down to around five-to-six seconds (from the professionals).”

Hundreds packed in to Civic Center Park to watch the competitions.

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“I think it’s a really great way to keep climbing, even though it is winter and there is not a lot of reasons to go outside. But, this is a reason to go outside,” said Brittany Smith, a fan and member of the Colorado Mountain Club. “I think Denver is doing a great job, being the first year having it here.”

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Athletes said the weather, and backdrop of the city skyline, made Denver a perfect selection for the finals.

“The crowd is awesome. The city is awesome. We definitely would love to be back here,” Stritch said.

Competitions continue Sunday.

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LINKS: UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup

Dillon Thomas