White Pine County’s annual Fire and Ice Show on Jan. 17-18 promises winter visitors two nights of fireworks, two days of competitive ice sculpting and opportunities for activities possible only where the snow is deep and the ice is thick. The event earned recognition with its recent listing as one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association for 2008 and 2009.
The competition takes place at Cave Lake State Park about 15 miles south of Ely, a few miles off U.S. 93 on a paved side road. Southern Nevadans headed for the event follow either U.S. 93 north to Ely, a drive of about 242 miles, or the shorter U.S. 93/Sunnyside Cutoff/U.S. 6 route. Although highway crews work their snow plows hard to keep these highways open, winter visitors should plan for snow by carrying chains.
As the host city, Ely welcomes event participants and observers for the White Pine County Fire and Ice Show. Although one campground in the park stays open through the winter, many drawn to the special event opt to stay in one of Ely’s many warm, comfortable motels and drive out to the park from town. Call soon for reservations.
If you choose to stay in the park, campground use costs $14 per night, available on a first-come basis. Also expect to pay a $4 park entrance fee per vehicle. Nevadans who frequently visit any of the 24 sites in the Nevada park system should investigate annual park passes. The pass for senior citizens aged 65 and over who have lived in the Silver State for five years costs just $15 and includes unlimited park entrance, camping fees and boat launching fees.
The historic Nevada Northern Railway in East Ely runs a special fireworks train Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m., rocketing brilliant fireworks over the snowy landscape. Inquire at the Nevada Northern Depot Museum about this special train or call (866) 407-8326 for more information and reservations, if tickets are available for the special run.
At Cave Lake State Park, competitors for handsome cash awards begin work on their fanciful ice sculptures on Jan. 17. For the comfort of participants and observers, big heated tents set up near the lake provide shelter for breaks. Concessions inside dispense hot dogs, hamburgers and chili, as well as a variety of hot and cold beverages, including beer. Attendees and competitive participants should layer warm winter clothing, wear footwear meant for snow and cover their heads and hands.
The sculptures must be completed and ready for judging by the afternoon of Jan. 18. Following the awards for first, second and third place the evening of Jan. 18, crowds gather on the lake ice around portable fire pits to watch one of the largest fireworks displays in the state. The effect of the colorful explosions in the clear, cold air of a dark mountain night and the resulting echoes in the canyons is unlike any fireworks display elsewhere.
Visitors to the park need not confine themselves to watching the ice sculptures take shape. Sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing and cross country skiing draw winter visitors to Cave Lake. Although snowmobiling is prohibited within the park, the machines may be off-loaded at a turnaround at the end of pavement on the Success Summit Road. Snowmobilers then explore miles of roads and trails within Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest adjacent to the park.
Cave Lake also offers ice fishing, one of several areas in the state where that sport is possible when the ice gets at least four inches thick, mostly farther north in Elko County. Those interested in learning more about ice fishing techniques should head next weekend for Spring Valley State Park, 30 miles east of Pioche off U.S. 93, about 200 miles from Las Vegas.
Park officials plan an ice fishing demonstration there on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring poles and tackle. Ice augers, heaters and hot beverages will be provided. Dress for extreme cold. For registration and information, call the visitor center at (775) 728-4460. Camp in the park or reserve lodging in Pioche or Caliente motels or in a bed and breakfast in nearby Panaca.
Margo Bartlett Pesek’s column appears Sundays.