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PO Box 6275
Bozeman, MT 59771

(406) 595-1784

Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival
Hyalite Canyon, Montana

New Organization


New Organization

Joe Josephson

Friends of Hyalite Announces New Organization for the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival

BOZEMAN, Montana – Friends of Hyalite is proud to announce a new organizational structure for the annual Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival (Ice Fest). Every December, Ice Fest organizes instructional clinics for all abilities in Hyalite Canyon along with evening events and films at the Emerson Cultural Center. Friends of Hyalite inherited the Ice Fest in 2013 when the local businesses that had co-founded the Ice Fest were no longer able to manage the event. Due to rapid expansion facilitated by road plowing and the World Cup climbing competitions Ice Fest hosted between 2012 and 2015, the growing demands of the five-day event needed the added structure provided by Friends of Hyalite. The 2017 Ice Fest drew participants from 25 states plus Canada, taught ice climbing to more than 270 people ages 10 to 72 with over 2,500 attendees over the course of event. Ice Fest has grown beyond the mission of Friends of Hyalite, which is dedicated to stewardship of, access to, and support for year-round recreation in Hyalite Canyon.

Friends of Hyalite has transferred ownership and operation of the Ice Fest to a new non-profit organization called the “Ice Climbing Alliance.” Long-time Ice Fest Director Joe Josephson, serves on the board of directors of the Ice Climbing Alliance (ICA) and will continue to lead the Ice Fest until a new Festival Director is named. “This transition is mutually welcomed and has been in the works for some time,” said Hilary Eisen, Board President for Friends of Hyalite. Josephson stepped down as Friends Executive Director in 2017 and recently left the Friends board to form the ICA along with Bozeman residents and climbers Dirk Tyler and Scott Lawson.

“This represents an important evolution for the future of both Ice Fest and Friends of Hyalite,” says Josephson who co-founded Friends in 2010 and has been involved in Ice Fest since its inception in 1996 and Director since 2006. “Road plowing in Hyalite is what allowed the Festival to grow to its current place as one of the largest events of its kind in the world. Keeping Hyalite open is in our DNA and raising awareness for public land access and funds for road plowing will always be the top priority for Ice Fest,” continues Josephson.

Since 2012, Ice Fest has raised more than $31,500 for the road-plowing fund, which costs on average more than $20,000 per winter. The overall plowing costs are shared through a unique collaboration between the US Forest Service, Gallatin County, and Friends of Hyalite - which contributes between $8,000-$13,000 per year in public support, in addition to applying for grants when available.

Friends of Hyalite was originally set up to support the US Forest Service on a wide variety of growing needs in managing Hyalite Canyon. In addition to winter road plowing, these needs include clean up days, volunteer support, visitor use research, and other stewardship projects. Friends of Hyalite’s recent annual spring clean-up on May 12 drew over 100 volunteers who on average removed four to six tons of garbage from Hyalite every six months. ”The Hyalite watershed continues to be one of the most popular and heaviest recreated areas in the state of Montana”   says Bozeman District Ranger Corey Lewellen, “Having a dedicated Friends group helps us address and manage the ever-growing demand of recreation use in the watershed, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Friends of Hyalite.” The Bozeman Ranger District administers the special use permit to operate the Ice Fest in Hyalite Canyon on the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The transition into separate non-profit organizations is supported unanimously by the Forest Service, boards for both Friends and ICA, as well as Ice Fest sponsors. This maturation allows both groups to more effectively pursue their own unique public benefit purposes. “This transition will allow Friends of Hyalite to expand our stewardship programs year-around, provide greater support to the Forest Service, and focus on new outreach into the community.” says Josh Fairchilds, Executive Director of Friends of Hyalite.

The long-term vision for Ice Fest is to grow support for Hyalite winter access and for ICA to eventually be in position to help promote and preserve access and quality climbing experiences elsewhere in Montana and across America. “The Ice Climbing Alliance is a welcomed addition to the landscape of climbing advocacy,” says Brady Robinson Executive Director for the Access Fund, a national organization that works to protect climbing access. “Winter climbing venues like Hyalite Canyon present unique and sometimes complicated access issues. ICA will be a powerful and experienced voice for promoting winter climbing for years to come.”



Joe Josephson, Ice Climbing Alliance                                
(406) 581-1716,                   

Hilary Eisen, Friends of Hyalite

About Friends of Hyalite

Friends of Hyalite is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to stewardship of, access to, and support for year-round recreation in Hyalite Canyon. Friends publish summer and winter recreation trail maps specific to Hyalite Canyon, available at local outdoor retailers. For more information visit or contact Friends at

About Ice Climbing Alliance & Bozeman Ice Festival

Ice Climbing Alliance is a non-profit organization (501c3 status pending) that operates the 22nd Annual Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival, December 5-9, 2018. For more information: