There are thousands of via ferratas in Europe, and while the idea is taking hold in the US there are significantly fewer here, the Uncompahgre Valley - specifically Ouray - now has two of them.
Via ferratas, which translates to iron road in Italian, date back centuries, but it was their use in battles in northeastern Italy during World War I that made them widely known.
There are more than 1,500 via ferratas in the world, but only a fraction of them are in North America. The Ouray via ferrata was designed to meet or exceed all current ASTM (the American Society for Testing and Materials) and CEN (the European Committee for Standardization - it’s French for Comité Européen de Normalisation in case you’re interested) safety standards. The second route is expected to open some time in June.
Dreamed up by a group that eventually became the non-profit Friends of the Ouray Via Ferrata (FOVF), the park is on city-owned land within Uncomphagre Gorge just outside town and follows the Ouray Ice Park model in that it is owned by the City of Ouray and is free to the public, although specific safety gear is required. That gear as well as guided trips can be found at outfitters in town.
Visit Ourayviaferrata.org for more info, to keep up to date on the details and to find guides and outfitters in town.