Vail Winter Mountain Games celebrate adventure sports in the Rockies

Winter sports festival presented by Eddie Bauer brings the athletes. Photo: Connor Walberg

HALF MOON BAY, Calif., February 16, 2013 — Last weekend, mountain adventure sport fans flocked to Vail to watch and participate in the second annual Winter Mountain Games. Events, including mixed climbing, mountain cyclocross, big air tricks, dual slalom biking, Nordic and telemark skiing, ski mountaineering, and snowshoe racing, were all crammed into the three-day festivities.

The Vail Valley Foundation project presented by Eddie Bauer ensured fun for pros and average Joes alike, with serious competition for athletes, plenty of spectator room for viewers, the ability to dip into the action for those not entirely at pro status, and activities to pack the weekend. A fat purse of $60,000 in prize money was dished out to those who excelled at the competitions.

The X-Country Snowshoe Race let the dogs run, too. (Photo: Connor Walberg)

The X-Country Snowshoe Race let the dogs run, too. (Photo: Connor Walberg)

The impressive, yet exhaustion-inducing Ultimate Mountain Challenge (UMC) combined three separate races in three days: the 10K Nordic race, the Ski Mountaineering (SkiMo) race and the Vail Uphill run. Inge Perkins, an 18-year-old from Bozeman, Mont., placed first with Jen Gersback-Venzara and Lyndsay Meyer ranking second and third, respectively. For the men, Brian Smith of Gunnison, Colo., came in first, followed by Stephen White and Mike Kloser.

While I watched elements of the SkiMo race from my semi-comfortable spot on a ski lift, the UMC was far beyond my skills. I settled for the X-Country Snowshoe Race, which started at 8,000 feet on Vail Mountain. Considering that I’d only arrived from sea level 24 hours before, my 5K pace didn’t blow the doors off, but I did fairly well for my first-ever snowshoe race. 

Others chose to bundle up and watch Saturday night’s Big Air show, featuring huckfests for Best Trick Bike and Telemark Big Air, performed on a massive ski jump, complete with fireballs for extra-special effects. The weekend’s competition wound up with the Dual-Slalom Bike contest on Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak. 

Wide tires were the tool of choice for on-snow bikes. (Photo: Connor Walberg)

Wide tires were the tool of choice for on-snow bikes. (Photo: Connor Walberg)

If you missed out on the fun, mark your calendars for the newly minted GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, taking place June 6-9, 2013. The weather will be warmer and the snow will be gone, but the games promise to be just as awesome.

For a full list of the Winter Mountain Games events and results, visit www.mountaingames.com/winter

Side Adventure 

While I’m nowhere as skilled as the climbers who competed in the Mountain Games, I got time to work in a little adventure with an ice climbing excursion with a group of friends and Apex Mountain School.

We suited up with avalanche beacons, helmets, crampons and ice axes, and headed out into the backcountry in the Red Sandstone Road area outside of Vail. After a tutorial on beginning ice climbing, willing participants roped in to climb a frozen waterfall. 

Get out to the backcountry with ice climbing lessons. Photo: J. K. Robinson

Ever willing to get out and try something new, I volunteered early for my first attempt at ice climbing.

While I didn’t make it to the extreme top of the waterfall, I did far better than I expected, and the whooping from my fellow climbers helped push me onward. Summer visitors to Vail can take rock-climbing excursions with Apex, but I’m glad I got out on the ice this winter.

Where to Stay

Vail is packed with a variety of accommodations, ranging from condo-style to luxury hotel suites. While in town, I stayed at The Sebastian, right in the middle of the action in the village. The hotel has ample public space in which to lounge when you’re not on the slopes or in your comfortable room. Chill out in the Library, Frost Bar, Market café, Leonora restaurant, or take advantage of any of the four hot tubs to ease your adventure-exhausted muscles. One step more: those muscles will appreciate a massage in the hotel spa. Mine did.

The hotel’s 100 guest rooms range from a Classic room to a Plaza Studio room, and the seven suites can include one to four bedrooms. All rooms include natural stone bathrooms, mini refrigerators with treats, Nespresso coffee service, nightly turn down, and plush robes. Rates at the hotel start at $449 per night in winter ($325 in summer), and vary depending on type of room and time of year.

Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.


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Jill K. Robinson

An award-winning journalist and adventure seeker, Jill K. Robinson has been a columnist with The Washington Times, Communities section since 2011.

Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, American Way, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Robb Report, Westways, Journey, Let's Go with Ryanair, World Hum, Gadling, Lonely Planet and more. She lives in a small California beach town near the big wave surf spot, Mavericks, and divides her time between writing about travel, running a kayak business and trying to wring awe-inspiring adventure out of every day.

Always eager to take a leap into the unknown and experience new things, Jill shares adventure sport and travel highlights—even when the adventure isn’t adrenaline pumping or bone crushing. Adventure is sometimes only a state of mind.

Find Jill on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr 

Contact Jill K. Robinson

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