jmines713 wrote:Ouray is good for instruction, easy access, fresh ice everyday, etc., but if you're looking for a wilderness experience at all you won't find it there. If you want long ice routes that are very committing, then I would definately say the canadian rockies are the place to go.
If you're looking for a place to get away from people, but don't want to commit to the long, cold trips up in Canada, I would recommend heading to Montana. Hyalite Canyon, just outside of Bozeman, has an immense collection of ice for the amount of area it is contained in. Everything from one-pitch WI3 to toprope mixed to huge, difficult multipitch routes are available. The best part is, you will probably see only one or maybe two parties while climbing here. No lines, easy access, great quality climbs - and also, this was Alex Lowe's home. There's other areas nearby - Pine Creek, for example - that offer more great climbs, and are even less used than Hyalite Canyon. There are two guiding companies run out of bozeman, one by Ron Brunckhorst himself. Not many people put Montana on their list of places to go, but it really should be. Word just hasn't gotten out yet.
A wilderness experience would be great, as would be getting away from crowds, etc., but my top priorities would be 1) relatively predictable conditions, 2) access to at least adequate ice lines (=> big queues of climbers would be a problem), 3) availability of good instructors, 4) relatively uncomplicated logisitics. My intent is to work intensively on basic skills in the WI3-4+ range so that I can start doing more interesting climbs, in more interesting places, with a competent buddy who is not a guide.
Thanks everyone for input so far.