USA Climbing hopes to establish Salt Lake as world climbing capital

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FILE – United States’ Kyra Condie climbs during women’s boulder qualification at the climbing World Cup on May 21, 2021, in Salt Lake City. Kyra Condie was told she needed back surgery to fix a severe curvature in her spine and would never be able to climb again. She did have surgery, after getting a second opinion, and has willed herself into becoming one of the world’s elite climbers despite having 10 vertebrae fused together. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – It’s not hard to guess why Salt Lake has become a mecca for the climbing community. Not only do the Wasatch mountains overlooking the city boast a plethora of world-class climbs, climbers are also only a short drive from other popular Southern Utah climbing locales like Moab, Joe’s Valley, and Zion National Park.

“Climbing has been a core sport to Salt Lake and Utah for a long time,” says Marc Norman, CEO of USA Climbing.  “Salt Lake is not only becoming the climbing hub of the U.S., but we’d certainly like to see that extend even internationally.”

 USA Climbing moved its headquarters to Salt Lake City from Boulder, Colorado in 2018, and since then, has been working to bring more athletes to the city with community, training opportunities, and competitions, such as this week’s YETI National Championships. Salt Lake City will also be hosting World Cup events for bouldering and speed climbing in May.

“We’ve really worked hard to build a program here in Salt Lake City where athletes could find coaching and have a space to train,” he says” “Since we’ve done that, each week I keep getting a little note that somebody new is moving to Salt Lake City.”

And as more and more climbers congregate in Salt Lake, more and more are sure to join them. Norman says that some officials and judges are moving here to be closer to the community, too.

“Training and competing with the best athletes in the country makes you a better climber and helps push all the athletes further,” he says. “I think all the athletes who have moved here have noticed that.”

According to Norman, over 30 athletes competing in this week’s competition – several of whom are Olympians –  are based in Salt Lake.

But the climbing boom in Utah isn’t new, exactly. Salt Lake City has always had a very large climbing community, due largely to the unparalleled access to the outdoors offered in the region. Organizations like Salt Lake Climbing Alliance, which advocates for protection of outdoor resources, as well as indoor climbing gyms, like Momentum and The Front, have bolstered the community, too.

And climbing isn’t only garnering recognition in Salt Lake, either. The sport is also experiencing widespread interest across the world. This year, climbing was featured in the Olympics for the first time, with athletes competing in three different disciplines: lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing.

“Leading into the games, the amount of press asking about climbing and talking about climbing showed itself,” Norman says.

USA Climbing even announced a partnership with Prudential, which marked the first association of this kind with a brand not associated with climbing.  

“The nature of that kind of company makes other brands look at us that maybe wouldn’t have in the past,” Norman says.

In the future, USA Climbing hopes to build a full-scale commercial climbing facility in Salt Lake, complete with dedicated locker rooms, recovery spaces, nutrition spaces, and training spaces for the national team.  

“One of our big goals is to really make Salt Lake City become our permanent home,” Norman says. “We’re working to build a world-class facility that will make Salt Lake City not only the center of climbing in the US, but we’ll make it the center of climbing in the world.”

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