#VailBen Dispatch 2: GoPro Mountain Games, Vail’s Best Kept Secret
Benjamin interviewing pro skier and avid stand up paddler, Steven Nyman, during the GoPro Mountain Games. Credit: Michael Brown. Courtesy: Adventure Film School.
I’m convinced. The GoPro Mountain Games has got to be Vail’s best kept secret. I’m not exactly sure how or why I didn’t know about this epic weekend of emerging sports, gear giveaways, and rock and roll, but I’m sure glad I know about it now.
If you are still a stranger to the Mountain Games, let me fill you in: Over the last decade, Vail’s first weekend in June has played host to some of the most exciting adventure sports to emerge in the new millennium. A side hobby for rock climbers has evolved into the international Slacklining World Cup. The Hawaiian offshoot of surfing, Stand Up Paddle, comes to the river for the SUP Sprint. Kayakers turn the Gore Creek into their very own pool table for Kayak 8 Ball. Even canines get in on the fun with the crowd favorite jumping and fetching competition known as DockDogs.
While there are familiar faces at the games—like trail running, mountain biking, and bouldering—one thing is for sure: you’re likely to see something you’ve never seen before. And under the guise of the non-profit Vail Valley Foundation, the games have grown into an international event, with top atheletes, more radical sports, and bigger-name bands.
I was left breathless watching the acrobatics of the slackliners from the second floor of Solaris or the incredible pro climbers at Golden Peak jumping from small hold to even smaller hold with the grace of a cat.
And the energy didn’t stop once the sun went down. Three nights of rock concerts transformed Checkpoint Charlie into a killer outdoor music festival. Remember Tokyo Police Club and Cold War Kids from “hot new artist”-status a few years back? Well they still rock. Both bands headlined one hell of a weekend. The latter’s show even ended in a torrential downpour that sent the crowd wild. And the swag! Oh the sawg. Gear heads were definitely at home as vendors packed the streets of Vail Village to give away everything from Fugoo wireless speakers (their scantily-clad lumberjacks were ubiquitous) to Jack Links Beef Jerky (their six-foot-plus Bigfoot mascot was another crowd favorite). And then there was GoPro. The perfect lead sponsor for a weekend that celebrated such cutting-edge athletics, GoPro could be found everywhere from the athletes’ heads to the bands’ guitars. And they were giving away so many cameras it felt like everyone walked away from the event with a Hero3+.
In fact I used my brand new GoPro in the Adventure Film School, an artistic component of the games that taught me how to make films about some of the athletes and musicians participating in the games. (Those films can be found on this page.) If you missed this year’s games, you definitely missed out. (Feel the FOMO!) So don’t let it happen again. Be sure to mark your calendars for June 4-7, 2015 when the games return. I’m certain by then they’ll bigger, better, and less of a secret than ever before.
Benjamin Solomon is the winner of America’s Best Summer Job, a 10-week, all-expenses paid summer job exploring what summer in the Vail Valley has to offer. A freelance writer based in New York, Benjamin has contributed to publications such as Vanity Fair, New York, Travel + Leisure and is the former editor of Next Magazine. Follow his journey on Blog.Vail.com as well as on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #VailBen.