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Dane Jackson taking kayaking to the next ledge

Dane Jackson gets inverted during the final run of the freestyle championship at the GoPro Mountain Games on Saturday evening in Vail. Jackson had the top score on the day. Dan Davis/Special to the Daily

VAIL — Dane Jackson and Hunter Katich took turns in the top spots at the GoPro Mountain Games freestyle kayaking competition on Saturday evening in Vail Vallage.

Hundreds gathered to watch the showdown. Jackson is frequently cited as the world’s best kayaker, but was bested by Katich in 2018 at the Mountain Games.

In the end, Jackson took home top honors on the day, out scoring Katich in the very last run of the evening, a down-to-the-wire finish which added a level of excitement to an already exciting sport. Dane Jackson’s sister, Emily Jackson, easily won the women’s competition, announcer Dan Gavere estimated it to be her 14th freestyle kayaking win at GoPro Mountain Games.

A new look at old zones

Freestyle kayaking events like that of the GoPro Mountain Games usually take place in sections of river where a small drop flows back on itself in a standing wave or “hole,” as its known in kayaking.

But in recent years, Dane Jackson has taken freestyle elements to new sections of river, going inverted over waterfalls and deliberately hitting rocks to bounce into new positions. He calls his rock maneuvers “edge catching” and says it has given him a new outlook on his old zones.

“When you start to drop your edge and hit the rock and do a flip, you start to realize how many places there are actually to do that type of thing, and you start to look at a lot of rapids differently,” he told the Vail Daily. “I’m starting to notice that there’s a little bit more of a level of control than I originally thought … You can look at a lot of classic rapids you’ve been doing for years and notice there’s actually a nice little ledge that you can catch your edge on and do a flip.”

Catching edges, attention

In recent months, along with his edges, Jackson has been catching the attention of publications outside of the kayaking world. Popular surf publication theinertia.com, in March, published a video with the headline “You Have to See This Aerial Barrel Roll From Kayaker Dane Jackson on a California River.”

Jackson said that particular clip is the result of an earlier iteration of edge catching, where you enter the river from a section of non-river.

“Even off the dry rocks, there’s a lot of fun places to do it,” he said.

While he’s being cited as a pioneer in this latest evolution of freestyle, Jackson says he’s not necessarily performing new tricks. Dane was 13 when his father Eric Jackson last held the title of world champion freestyle kayaker in 2007; four years later Dane would become champion himself.

“A lot of people have done a lot of the things I do; back in the day there’d be similar things, for sure,” Dane said. “But over the last year or two I’ve noticed there’s a lot of places that if I drop my edge I can actually do something new for that spot.”

Dane Jackson competes in the GoPro Mountain Games kayak freestyle prelims Thursday at International Bridge in Vail Village.

Some zones require high water, but Jackson says a move called the Tomahawk flip — where a kayaker descends a waterfall perpendicular to the flow and uses a feature like a rock within the waterfall to initiate a flip — has come together easier than expected in low water.

“With the Tomahawk, there’s actually a lot of places for it,” he said. “I started to do it on dry land off of the ledge into flatwater, and then I realize I could probably do it in whitewater, and I started to do it a lot more, and I think the more places I’ve started to do it, the more people realize that they have a place that they can do it.”

Jackson said it has been exciting to see more people attempting freestyle maneuvers in zones they may not have tried in years past.

“You can land some weird ways, and there’s definitely potential to get hurt,” he said as a word of caution. “But over the last year, I’ve definitely seen more and more people I’ve seen try, where initially I was like the only one trying in a few places, which is really cool to see.”

Slackliners fly high above International Bridge in Vail at GoPro Mountain Games

Heather Larsen balances on her shoulder during the slackline show at the Kayak Hole at the International Bridge
Barry Eckhaus / Special to the Daily

When you walk up to the International Bridge in Vail Village, you will hear the gasps and “oh my gosh” exclamations from the crowd before you see what everyone is looking at: a woman doing single-armed body holds and full splits while suspended on a thin line nearly 20 feet above the Gore Creek.

Slacklining has become one of the most popular events at the GoPro Mountain Games since the sport was first included in 2012. In past years, athletes from around the world have come to Vail to compete in various slackline events. COVID restrictions prevented the full competition from taking place this year, but professional slackliners Heather Larsen and Mickey Wilson are putting on multiple shows a day to demonstrate highline tricks at the International Bridge.

“The Mountain Games are definitely known as one of the premiere events in the slackline world,” Wilson said. “Making this event still happen in a safe way was the right call, and we’re here to share the experience and share the passion for slacklining.”

Wilson, a Colorado native born in Vail and raised in Breckenridge, is one of the people who helped bring slacklining to the GoPro Mountain Games nearly a decade ago. He picked up the sport in 2009, and is using the demonstrations to encourage other people to try it for themselves.

“I almost didn’t become a slackliner,” Wilson said. “I stepped on my first slackline in 2007, but I got discouraged because it was difficult. I’m trying to get people to learn that it’s okay for something to be hard, it’s okay for you to fail, and it’s definitely worthwhile to persevere through difficult activities. It’s the most difficult activities that are usually the most rewarding.”

Originated by rock climbers in the 1970s as an off-day activity, slacklining has developed into a sport all its own. There are a variety of styles, including tricklining, where the line is suspended lower to the ground and used like a trampoline to do aerial flips and tricks, and highlining, where a line is suspended high in the air between two fixed points. While beginners typically start in a park, learning to stand on a line close to the ground between two trees, advanced slackliners like Wilson and Larsen rig up lines between buildings, bridges, canyons and more.

“Once you start highlining, your eyes start drifting upwards,” Wilson said. “If there is air and two fixed points, you can slackline there. It’s one of those infinite possibilities sports.”

Heather Larsen wows spectators at the slackline show at the Kayak Hole at the International Bridge.
Barry Eckhaus / Special to the Daily

Larsen grew up in Tennessee, and was introduced to slacklining over a decade ago as a cross-training mechanism for rock climbing. She has since traveled the world pursuing slacklining projects, including rigging a line over the Tower of David in Jerusalem.

“For me it’s all about aesthetics,” Larsen said. “I don’t need the biggest baddest line, but I want the most beautiful line. I love being in nature, I love feeling at peace outside, and rigging a line with no distractions around other than a few birds chirping is how I prefer to pursue the sport.”

Two years ago, Larsen and Wilson initiated one of the first highline competitions in the country at the 2019 GoPro Mountain Games.

“We’re hoping to make the event even bigger in the future and have the best in the world here,” Larsen said.

During the show, Wilson gives a step-by-step demonstration of introductory tricks as he repeatedly tells the crowd around him that anybody can learn to slackline.

“This is not something that only crazy athletes can do!” Wilson said. “It is actually one of the safest extreme sports. If you have the ability to stand on one leg and walk upstairs, you can learn to slackline.”

Larsen then walks out onto the line and draws big reactions from the crowd as she moves seamlessly from a double-drop knee move with her hands above her head, to a full split, to a balance move where she goes upside down and supports herself on a single shoulder.

“What we’re all seeking as athletes is to find that flow state,” Larsen said. “Something that I’ve always loved about slacklining is that you can have a beginner and a pro on the same line, and both people can be learning something new. You just get creative, see what speaks to you, and go after that.”

The final slacklining shows of the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games will take place on Sunday at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. Each show is 30 minutes long and will feature both Wilson and Larsen demonstrating their favorite tricks and inspiring the next generation of slackliners.

 

PHOTOS: Thursday’s GoPro Mountain Games action

Put the hesitation aside: Let the GoPro Mountain Games begin

The GoPro Mountain Games are back and, with them, likely crowds. Yes, it’s been a weird 15 months, but it’s time to jump in with both feet. (Daily file photo)

The cynical way of looking at the GoPro Mountain Games is that it’s a shameless way of plugging the monolith that is summer in the Vail Valley, which we understand does not exist — Eagle County is not monolithic and not one singular valley.

Roughly every other Wednesday, we’ve got the 2021 VRD Bloch & Chapleau Town Mountain Bike Race Series. One of my favorite moments ever as a sports writer was covering the Tour de Wednesday as I was waiting for riders to come down from the Vail Uphill.

Walking among tourists who were off to dinner in Lionshead and hearing people saying, “Can you believe what these crazy people are doing,” was fun.

“They do this every other week,” I said to a bunch of them. More dropped jaws.

As Norm Peterson said on Cheers, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and I’m wearing Milkbone underpants.” What this has to do with the GoPro Mountain Games starting on Thursday is probably that the dogs pictured like Milkbones. (Daily file photo)

So it’s not surprising to have four bike races this weekend with the Mountain Games. It’s not surprising to have four running races associated with the festival. We’ve got the Dynafit Vail Trail Running Series, where runners do much more crazy stuff than Sunday’s 10K Spring Runnoff.

Seriously, the Half Marathon of old when runners went up Vail and then down into the Back Bowls and back? That’s some crazy stuff, people.

We love our dogs, perhaps too much. Just looking out my window near Dowd Junction and people are in the river both in boats and waders. Who doesn’t do yoga or is yoga already a verb, as has been the plight of numerous nouns? I am yoga-ing?

By and large, the GoPro Mountain Games do a nice job of selling the valley in a somewhat crass but necessary way. (We understand someone has to pay the bills.)

A different Mountain Games

Like everything else after COVID-19, the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games — why do I still want to call them Teva? — are different than years past.

Thursday, aka today, should be the Steep Creek Championships up in Homestake. The International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup isn’t in town either. Both attract international competitors and, well, the NHL is moving heaven and earth to make it OK for the Montreal Canadiens to play the winner of the the Vegas-Colorado series (not going well for the home team). How are you getting a kayaker from Australia or a climber from Slovenia into the country?

Dane Jackson won Steep Creek in 2019, but was the only American male in the top five, while Janja Garnbret, of Slovenia, won the IFSC World Cup.

It’s easy to say these are Mountain Games Lite. It’s also a disservice.

Yes, we have had tourists in Eagle County since the beginning of COVID. I think I played golf with most of the Dallas Metroplex and their kids last summer. We’ve also had a ski season, though that definitely had a strange vibe to it.

Despite the hesitancy of the author to head back into crowds, he is always up for some 8-Ball at the GoPro Mountain Games. (Daily file photo)

After around 15 months, the return of the GoPro Mountain Games is another step toward whatever we call normal. We have to go back to the 2020 Burton U.S. Open in the last week of February of that year for a major event in the county.

No World Cup Birds of Prey. No Mountain Games. No Burton. No Colorado Classic. Keep on going.

So if there’s no Homestake Steep Creek or major cycling event on Friday night or no bouldering, we’re good. We almost want to hear that techno-music that is blasted non-stop in Vail for the next four days. Almost.

But …

We have no doubts that the 2021 Mountain Games will go off well. Seriously, what are the odds of State Bridge burning down again during this festival? (Sorry, old-school Mountain Games humor.)

Yet we’re still adjusting to this new world. Personally, I’ll tell you that I have issues with crowds these days, which is darn silly thing to say if you’re a sports writer. (I realized how silly that was when I actually typed it in the solitude of my apartment, to which I have gotten so used, and maybe that ain’t good.)

I’m vaccinated. I’ve been going to sports events since September. I go out every day to the market or the office or the golf course regularly. (The third is my favorite.) I actually hate wearing masks, which ironically I’ve only used at the doctor’s office since the mandate went away.

But 15 months into COVID, or whatever we will call this period, I don’t know what I’m going to do the next four days in the mob scene that is the Vail Village. Big crowds are too much for me.

Part of me is going to be freaked out about the number of people in the village, thinking it isn’t healthy, although odds are good that we are approaching good levels of vaccination.

It’s also just regular interaction with people. After 15 months holed up, by and large, this is going to be an assault on my senses, that techno music, the announcements, cheers, the dogs and so on.

I acknowledge that this is completely irrational and, in some ways, really silly, but this is still real. I am not suggesting that Freud be enclosed in a sound-proofed bubble, although my co-workers at the Vail Daily are firmly behind that proposal.

My bet, though, is that I’m not the only one. A lot of coping with COVID issues is realizing this. We get so isolated, it’s tough to talk to people so that when you need to talk to somebody it’s uncomfortable to talk to people. Fun cycle there.

So let’s give this a try. For those of us who are still a little hesitant about what the GoPro Mountain Games are going to be, we need a little stiffening of the spine. It is going to be OK, except for the techno music. (I really think Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti would be great music for kayaking. Just a suggestion.) We may be a little overwhelmed at first. But we can do this, and it’s helpful to be going out in public in a familiar place and setting.

Meanwhile, for all of you who are doing fine, first of all, way to go. I’d like to be where you are and I’m jealous. Second of all, let’s all just try to be nice this weekend, which does go against every grain of SWAG collection hunts which are the hallmark of this weekend. Please know that not everyone’s quite comfortable out there yet.

A lot of people are coming back into the world this weekend. A little consideration can go a long way.

We’ll see you at the Mountain Games.

Breaking down the events of the GoPro Mountain Games

The Kayak Freestyle, or rodeo, is always one of the highlights of the GoPro Mountain Games for spectators. The final is on Saturday at 4 p.m. at International Bridge. (Daily file photo)

In the old days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and when one had to walk uphill in the snow in both directions to a kayaking event, back in the late 1990s, the Jeep Whitewater Festival was a rather simple affair.

On Memorial Day Weekend, kayakers gathered in the Vail Village for a few flips, aka the Kayak Freestyle Rodeo, and a keg and then went down to Dowd Junction the next day for some more paddling and probably another keg. That’s it.

For better for worse, the GoPro Mountain Games have grown into a Goliath of whitewater, running, biking, dogs, yoga, disc golf, fishing and everything else. To help you with all the names and sponsors — the Yeti 2-Fly X Stream doesn’t involve catching a yeti and is probably not extreme; it’s a fishing contest — we’re going to break down what you can see and do sports-wise this weekend.

Yes, we can say it: The GoPro Mountain Games will go to the dogs this weekend as the canines take over Lionshead.
Daily file photo

We prefer to watch other people suffering as opposed to doing the suffering ourselves, but to each their own.

Running

  • Rocky Dog Trail Run: Thursday, 5:30 p.m., start/finish at Mountain Plaza. This is 5K with the dog of your choosing.
  • Apres 5K: Friday, 5:30 p.m., start/finish at Mountain Plaza. Another 5K sans canine.
  • Adidas Terrex 10K Spring Runoff, Sunday, 8 a.m.,start/finish at Mountain Plaza. If 5K ain’t enough for you, you can double your pleasure.
  • Junk Brands Pepi’s Face-off, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. This is running up and down Pepi’s Face as many times as you can during 30 minutes. This is where we find weekend fun coming to close to torture.

Biking

  • Bosch Ebike Challenge: Friday, 3 p.m., Golden Peak. Yep, electric comes to the Mountain Games. For people who worry about burning calories, there are plenty more races. Remain calm.
  • TIAA Bank Kids Race: Saturday, 8 a.m., Golden Peak: Short courses for the tykes.
  • TIAA Bank XC Mountain Bike: Saturday, 10 a.m., Golden Peak: We never understood why cross-country is in the name of the adult mountain-biking race. Competitors will complete the 6.8-mile lap on Vail Mountain an assorted number of times based on skill level.
  • TIAA Bank Road Bike Time Trial, Sunday, 9:30 a.m., Vail Village start: This is the old Coors Classic route up Vail Pass. We find Vail Pass easier to tackle in a car.

Water

  • GMC Kayak Freestyle: Finals, Saturday, 4 p.m., International Bridge: Also called the kayak rodeo or the freestyle rodeo, no cows are involved. Competitors get a minute to throw out their best tricks including space Godzillas and phonyx monkeys. Just say, “He/she got some serious amplitude on that,” and you’ll fit in fine.
  • Pacifco Gore IV Kayak Challenge: Friday, 10 a.m., International Bridge to Stephens Park. New for 2021, this essentially replaces the Homestake Steep Creek Championships. Though not Class V waters, these Class IV waters will challenge the best.
  • GMC Downriver Kayak Sprint: Saturday, 9 a.m., Gore Creek. Exactly what it sounds like on the Gore.
  • Pacifico 8-Ball Kayak Sprint: Sunday, 10 a.m., Gore Creek: Kayaking meets roller derby as, in theory, four kayakers try to get down Gore Creek with a “limited” number of 8-balls, or kayakers, trying to impede their progress. By limited, we mean tons of 8-balls. By impeding, we mean, “All’s fair in love and war and whitewater.” This is always fun. Highly recommended.
  • Yeti Down River SUP Sprint: Saturday, 10:30 a.m., Gore Creek. SUP is stand-up paddle, and, yes, they’re going down the Gore standing up. Some of us consider this Darwinism in action. Others call it fun.
  • Pacifco Down River R2 Raft Sprint: Saturday, 8 a.m., Vail Village: Two-person rafts, hence the R2, take on the Gore.

Fishing

  • Yeti Catch Wars: Thursday, 8 a.m., Edwards to Wolcott. We always like fishing comps with fancy names.
  • Yeti 2-Fly X-Stream: Friday, 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., International Bridge. Not very extreme, but still fun to watch. The fly casting is oddly hypnotic.
  • Yeti Fishing Final, Saturday, 7 a.m., Undisclosed location: Like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who does love his fishing — his old Secret Service code name was “Angler” — the best from the two earlier fishing events duke it out in an undisclosed location.

Dogs

  • Orijen Dockdogs Outdoor Big Air: Thursday-Sunday, Lionshead. Finals, Sunday, 3 p.m.: The dogs are always the stars of the show at the GoPro Mountain Games. Fido and company leap all week.
  • K9 Superwall: Thursday-Sunday, Lionshead. It’s a wall. It’s doubtless super. Spot will enjoy it.
  • Dueling Dogs: Friday-Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Lionshead. No pistols at down are involved. Fido and Spot race each other for glory.
  • Orijen Dockdogs Extreme Vertical, Saturday, 3 p.m., Lionshead. Yes, the name is a leftover from the days that everything, including writing articles about dogs, was extreme. If Rover has hops, this is the event for you.
  • Orijen Dockdogs Speed Retrieve, Sunday, 1 p.m., Lionshead: Fetch, doggie.

The Mountain House Disc Golf Tournament at Maloit Park is Saturday and Sunday, a tradition unlike any other, with apologies to the Lords of the Masters. There is no truth to the rumor that Jim Nantz will be broadcasting.

Vail Valley Foundation announces adjusted summer programming

The Vail Valley Foundation on Thursday announced its plans for summer programming across all its activities, programs and venues. Although the novel coronavirus has significantly altered the organization’s plans, Vail Valley Foundation President Mike Imhof said in a news release, the nonprofit will still be doing what it can, within the boundary of state and county Public Health Orders, to continue its mission of bringing vitality to the community.

Since 1981, the Vail Valley Foundation has provided a wide range of nonprofit services to fulfill its mission to enhance quality of life in the Vail Valley and showcase the Eagle County community to a global audience through arts, athletics and education — from Hot Summer Nights to Vail Dance Festival to GoPro Mountain Games, and many more.

Recently, the organization helped raise more than $1.2 million as part of its VVF Community Matching Fund to support four critical areas of need in the community. The organization has also led the creation of the Private Sector Task Force groups, which have become an essential tool to organize and communicate with county public health officials on behalf of local businesses, nonprofits and other organizations throughout the county.

“It is in our mission to raise quality of life for all, and in this case that means adapting to a new situation, leading where we can, doing what is right for the health of our people and our economy, and caring for the well-being of everyone who takes part in all our programming and events,” Imhof said in the release. “This work will continue in any and every way that it can.

“Much of our education programming can go on with adaptations to social distancing requirements,” Imhof added. “However, many of our events are designed to bring large groups of people together for major international events, or large concerts, and based on the current public health landscape, we do not believe events of this type and size will be feasible by July or August.”

Explanation of the current Eagle County Public Health Order

The Vail Valley Foundation’s plans are built in context with the latest Eagle County Public Health Order, announced in late April, that is designed to transition the community through a recovery from COVID-19. Social distancing will be required throughout the entire process until all health orders are lifted (for more visit http://ecemergency.org).

  • Green Circle, gatherings of up to 10 people
  • Blue Square, gatherings of up to 25-50 people
  • Black Diamond, gatherings of up to 250 people

Today, the Vail Valley Foundation announced updates for its summer programming, including:

GoPro Mountain Games

The Vail Valley Foundation had rescheduled from the original June 4-7 dates to Aug. 20-23, but today announced that GoPro Mountain Games will not occur in 2020. The organization is pursuing several avenues to keep the spirit of the GoPro Mountain Games alive throughout the summer and is already planning for next year’s event, scheduled for June 10-13, 2021.

“The Mountain Games is such an enormous and integral part of the VVF, the community and beyond and it is an event we, and thousands of others, look forward to each year with great anticipation. Unfortunately, an international event like this is simply not possible until we have completely stabilized from the coronavirus,” Dave Dressman, vice president of sales and sponsorship for the Vail Valley Foundation, said in a news release.

The Vail Valley Foundation will aim to lift spirits by hosting a virtual concert featuring several of the bands who would have performed live at this year’s event as well as past GoPro Mountains of Music Performers. This virtual concert event will take place on June 4, the day the Mountain Games was planned to begin, and will be co-produced by the foundation and its partner, “Jam in the Van,” known for creating widely-viewed, original musical performances on its YouTube channel. The online event will include performances by Twiddle, G. Love, Citizen Cope, Deer Tick, Ghost of Paul Revere and a ‘Bluegrass Superjam’ and others. Additional information will be forthcoming.

More than 150 sponsors and 82,000 spectators attended the GoPro Mountain Games in 2019, according to the foundation.

The Vail Valley Foundation will continue to find creative ways to engage with fans, athletes, participants, spectators and outdoor brands throughout the summer.

“Our mountain community may not be able to gather like years’ past, but we will still be out there on the river, on the trail, or anywhere that we can safely get outside and do what we love the most,” Dressman said.

For more on the GoPro Mountain Games, or to learn more about how your athlete registration will be affected, visit mountaingames.com.

Vail Dance Festival

The Vail Dance Festival will cancel all in-person performances for the 2020 season, a decision made in the interest of the safety and well-being of artists, staff and audiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival plans to present a digital festival of unique performances from past seasons during the intended time of the 2020 festival, and preparations are underway for the return of live performances starting with opening night on July 30, 2021.

“We had hoped to be able to present some version of the festival this summer, but with great reluctance have now concluded that it is simply not safe to do so,” said Vail Dance Festival Artistic Director Damian Woetzel in a news release. “The Vail Dance Festival is a place of intense collaboration among our artists, and we look forward to the creative energy that will be more powerful than ever when we are all able to be together again next summer.”

The Vail Dance Festival will cancel all in-person performances for the 2020 season, a decision made in the interest of the safety and well-being of artists, staff and audiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A digital event is planned for July 31-Aug. 11.
Christopher Duggan | Special to the Daily

Woetzel said the festival will unveil a digital event during the planned July 31-Aug. 11 dates, which will include unique performances and commissions from past Vail seasons, as well as online forums and educational content featuring dance and music luminaries.

 “It is difficult to think about not having the festival this summer in Vail, but we will continue to connect through dance from a distance until we can gather again in person,” said Sarah Johnson, Vail Valley Foundation senior vice president for education & the arts, in a news release. “We are committed to making decisions this year to protect the health and well-being of our community in the short-term while ensuring the future viability of this incredible festival for years to come.”

The Vail Dance Festival relies on donations and ticket purchases to plan, produce and sustain the world-renowned festival. In order to ensure a return in 2021, organizers ask that ticketholders consider donating their ticket purchase to the Vail Dance Festival, or credit the value of tickets to a purchase next season. Ticketholders also have the option to receive refunds. Donations will provide operational support and help ensure the future of the Vail Dance Festival.

Visit vaildance.org for more, or contact the box office at 970-845-8497.  

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Hot Summer Nights and ShowDown Town

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater will host a shortened season in 2020, welcoming small events of under 250 people only during the “black diamond” phase of Eagle County’s Public Health Order.

“This venue is at the heart of our community both culturally and geographically, and we very much have a role to play to bring together the people that we can, in any way we can, and to hopefully bring light and life to everyone we are fortunate enough to welcome to our venue this summer,” said Ford Amphitheater Director Tom Boyd in a news release.

“We will remain as agile as possible to opportunities that open up in late summer or early September,” Boyd said.

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater will host a shortened season in 2020, welcoming small events of under 250 people only during the “black diamond” phase of Eagle County’s Public Health Order.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

The Ford Amphitheater hosts a wide array of events each year, from graduations and community events to art classes in the evenings, as well as weddings and concerts.

It has also played host to the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Vail Dance Festival and Hot Summer Nights free concert series for more than 30 years. More recently it has hosted headliner concerts and performing arts events in partnership with AEG Presents.

Bravo! Vail has canceled its regular programming but is exploring opportunities to still fulfill its mission by offering musical experiences that could include both smaller live performances and concerts delivered online throughout the summer (learn more at bravovail.org). The Vail Dance Festival and all concerts in partnership with AEG Presents have been postponed or canceled. The annual Fourth of July Patriotic Concert, held in partnership with Bravo! Vail, has also been canceled.

Boyd said the Vail Valley Foundation is exploring ways to keep Hot Summer Nights concerts on the calendar during the late summer. 

“Even if we solely focus on our local music community and bring people together in smaller groups to enjoy local and regional bands, we very much want to continue to be active and give our community some form of live music,” he said.

Hot Summer Nights performance dates and artists are yet to be determined, and Boyd said that he and the staff of the Ford Amphitheater are building a social distancing plan that would stay in keeping with public health guidance.

“We are doing everything we can, within guidelines, to bring as much joy as possible in a time where frankly it’s needed most,” Boyd said.

The venue is also exploring the idea of hosting “Movie Night at The Amp” by playing classic movies and documentaries on its big screen and is working to expand partnerships with local businesses to utilize the venue in creative ways for yoga, fitness, art and music classes throughout the summer. The venue will also be available to rent for events that are able to fit within public health guidelines.

For more about the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater or for questions about tickets to an event there, visit grfavail.com.

ShowDown Town

The Vail Valley Foundation is also exploring a modified version of the ShowDown Town free summer concerts in Eagle.

The organization hopes that Eagle County can achieve the Black Diamond phase of the public health order by early July when the first concert is currently planned. Organizers would then limit the number of live attendees and enact guidelines to meet all public health orders in the Eagle Town Park venue.

The Vail Valley Foundation is exploring a modified version of the ShowDown Town free summer concerts in Eagle.
Daily file photo

Plans for an event of this type will be determined by the success of the Public Health Order.

Vilar Performing Arts Center

The Vilar Performing Arts Center will be postponing or canceling all headliner artists between now and the end of August but is evaluating opportunities for hosting smaller events in light of Eagle County Health’s latest Public Health Order. 

The venue recently held a successful new virtual music series dubbed the “Ghost Light Sessions” with local bands playing to an empty theater. The Ghost Light Sessions will continue, said Executive Director Duncan Horner in a news release, as will the theater’s role in the local community and in the region, even if these efforts remain virtual in the coming weeks and months.

“This is a place that people have come to truly love, not only our spectators and staff, but also our wonderful volunteers and the artists that have come to play here,” Horner said. “We understand that we can’t host the summer that we wanted to, but we remain optimistic and hopeful that we will have the ability to come together again at the VPAC soon.”

The Vilar Performing Arts Center recently held a successful new virtual music series dubbed the “Ghost Light Sessions” with local bands playing to an empty theater.
Zach Mahone | Special to the Daily

The Vilar Performing Arts Center’s updated summer schedule is as follows:

Allman Betts Band: Rescheduled for June 27, 2021
Keb’ Mo’: Rescheduled for July 6, 2021

Kenny G: Rescheduled for July 10, 2021
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder: Postponed, date to be announced

LeAnn Rimes: Postponed, date to be announced

An Evening with Robert Earl Keen: Postponed, date to be announced

Average White Band: Postponed, date to be announced

The Electric Light Orchestra Experience 50th Anniversary: Postponed, date to be announced

The Vilar Performing Arts Center relies on underwriting and ticket purchases to operate, produce and sustain its extraordinary programming. In order to ensure a return, organizers ask that ticketholders consider donating the value of your ticket back to the venue. These donations will provide operational support and help secure the future of the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Visit vilarpac.org for more or contact the box office at 970-845-8497.

YouthPower365

The Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 education activity will continue for the most part, with some exceptions as well as some modifications.

“We understand that this is a time where it is difficult to plan ahead,” said Sarah Johnson, senior vice president of education & the arts for the Vail Valley Foundation, in a news release. “We are ready to adapt and help out our families and students in every way we can.”

The organization will also rescheduled its annual fundraiser, the Star Dancing Gala, for September.

Below is a program-by-program look at summer expectations for the organization. To register, or to receive continued updates on any of the programs below, visit youthpower365.org or follow YouthPower365 on Facebook.

Magic Bus: The Magic Bus will restart operations in accordance with Eagle County Public Health Orders and when approved by state licensing. The Magic Bus will follow best practices for social distancing, sanitation and adhere to all licensing protocols. Currently, one Magic Buses is being utilized by Colorado Mountain Medical to support COVID-19 antibody testing. 

COPA Soccer: Potential dates: July 6 – Aug. 9, pending social distancing requirements. The Steadman Clinic COPA Soccer program inspires and enriches communities by providing games to support positive youth development and community building opportunities for children ages 6-17. Coaches have developed creative, fun, and unique approaches to the game to ensure social distancing protocols are followed if and when Eagle County Public Health Orders allow for contact sports, like soccer, to resume. 

HER Film Camp: Postponed until Fall 2020. The HER Film Camp is a girl-specific film school designed for middle and high-school girls to interpret their view of the world into short film format.

Adventure Camps: Adventure Camps are canceled for 2020.

Celebrate the Beat All Stars and Pop Hop Camp:  Expected dates June 1-June 30. These two camps will be combined into one fun and exciting, virtual dance camp. The camps will start with a zoom meeting for warm-ups at 10 a.m., then kids run through independent practice during the day, and meet again at 3 p.m. for a daily wrap up. During the week, groups can jump into live classes if their schedules permit. Organizers are hoping to bring celebrity dancers into the sessions.

PwrHrs Summer Camps, Elementary and Middle Schools:  Plans depend on the availability of Eagle County Public School buildings and bussing per Eagle County’s Public Health Order. Current planning includes options to offer school-based camp with smaller groups at each school building and/or neighborhood-based youth activations in “pop-up” style locations in neighborhoods throughout the valley revolving around social emotional support through outdoor enrichment activities, utilizing a drop-in format. All programming will adhere to social distancing protocols.

Highschool Hyperdrive:  This program is canceled. Outgoing 8th graders are welcome to join the Middle School PwrHrs Activation Activities.

Camp College: Online-only support will allow students to connect with their independent guide to gain insights on the steps to take in preparation of applying for college, internships and apprenticeships.

Very Young Composers: The in-person program is canceled for Summer 2020. Virtual offerings are being explored.

COVID-19 Youth Response Project: High Five Access Media and YouthPower365 are partnering with local high schoolers to share their youth perspectives and experiences related to COVID-19. Within an artistic or journalistic medium of their choice, students will tell their stories individually and as a group that will result in a final product to be shared online, through social media, and other platforms. As part of the project, students will receive expert technical assistance, mentoring, training, and peer critique and feedback. In addition to community-wide exposure, student work will be judged by a professional committee for prizes.

Visit youthpower365.org for more information.

June’s GoPro Mountain Games in Vail postponed to August

The Vail Valley Foundation, which owns and operates the annual GoPro Mountain Games, announced Monday the postponement of the annual mountain sports, music and lifestyle event until Aug. 20-23.

The event had previously been scheduled for June 4-7 in Vail.

The GoPro Mountain Games will still take place in Vail and organizers say they will stay as true as possible to the original free-to-spectators, four-day, multi-sport festival format. 

“The mountain community is strong and resilient, and although these are difficult times, we are confident that we can get through this together,” said Dave Dressman, Vail Valley Foundation vice president of sales and event director, in a news release. “Although we are disappointed this beloved project cannot take place during its normal June time frame, we hope the exciting news of the postponement to August triggers optimism for our mountain community that there will come a time when we can come together to once again celebrate the incredible spirit of mountain lifestyle in Vail.”

Dressman and the Vail Valley Foundation stressed that the health and well-being of all Mountain Games participants, athletes, spectators, staff, sponsors and partners would be paramount in the decision-making process as organizers looked ahead to the new August dates.

The Vail Valley Foundation, the town of Vail, Vail Resorts, GoPro and other key Mountain Games partners will consult with public health officials to make a final go/no-go determination on the August dates by June 1 at the latest.  

“If we get to a point where the new August dates are not viable, and/or hosting of the event presents health risks to anyone we serve, then at that time we will announce a cancellation of the August event,” Dressman said. “We hope that doesn’t happen, and we will remain optimistic, but the health of our mountain community, staff and all of our attendees is priority No. 1 for us.”

Organizers said that GoPro Mountain Games partners, athletes and sponsors were extremely supportive of the decision.

“This event speaks so much to the heart and soul of our community, and we’re proud to partner with the Vail Valley Foundation, Vail Resorts and all our community businesses and partners to do all that we can to keep this event on the 2020 calendar if conditions allow,” said Vail Mayor Dave Chapin in the news release. “For now, we’re optimistic that we will be all together, outdoors, enjoying the GoPro Mountain Games in 2020 during these new August dates. These games will be an important component of our recovery, not only economically, but more importantly, will lift us all up emotionally to show our resiliency in working together as a community.” 

A late-summertime event

Organizers recognized that water levels are much lower in August than in June, and that whitewater events will be impacted by this change.

“Whitewater athletes are a creative bunch,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s Mac Garnsey, co-director of the event, in the news release. “We are going to work with them, and all our sport specialists, to see how we can keep this edition of the GoPro Mountain Games as close to the original as possible, but there simply is not enough water in Homestake Creek and Gore Creek to hold the exact same whitewater events that we have in the past.”

Vail Valley Foundation staff are currently working on plans with sport specialists across all 12 disciplines to determine what changes need to be made to events like fishing, climbing, DockDogs, trail running, mountain and road biking, disc golf, yoga, and the GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge. They are also having open and honest conversations with sponsors, local partners, the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, and other officials to shape the event to be as similar to the original as possible.

Finding a way to ‘rock on’

Music, too, is a big part of the GoPro Mountain Games, with three nights of free music at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, a venue that is also managed by the Vail Valley Foundation.

The music lineup is likely to remain largely intact, and organizers are optimistic about bringing the originally-scheduled lineup to the Ford Amphitheater for the August dates, including Bluegrass Superjam, Deer Tick, Andy Frasco & the UN, and Twiddle & Mihali.

“Additionally, we will continue to program live music in various daytime locations with the help of numerous local musicians who have built what is a thriving Vail Valley music scene,” Dressman said.

Athlete registration information

Athlete registrations for the June event will continue to be honored, said Sarah Franke, Vail Valley Foundation vice president of marketing & operations.

Registration will be temporarily paused on mountaingames.com, however, until such time as organizers can confirm the exact new dates and times for each event.

“For years, the GoPro Mountain Games, always held in early June, has been a celebration of the arrival of summer and the mountain lifestyle that comes along with the new season. We believe this will still ring true, even in August, as all of us reflect on how much we cherish any moment we are fortunate enough to enjoy these beautiful mountains,” Franke said. 

Athletes who have already registered for the 2020 event will be contacted to inform them of any changes to their selected event(s). Existing registrants can come and compete in the August event, push their registration to 2021, or receive a full refund on registration fees. Those who wish to continue supporting the event, even though they may not be able to attend, will also have the option to donate their registration fees to the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation that hosts the event each year.

Organizers said they would soon have a more complete picture of what the new competitions, formats, courses, rules, and prizes, and that they would be in touch with current and former athletes and spectators with up-to-date information as decisions are made.

“We thank everyone for their patience during these difficult times,” Franke said. “As we adjust from an event in early June to one in late August, some of our events will be exactly the same, some will alter slightly, and others will change more significantly. We look forward to sharing some of our fun and creative ideas with the GoPro Mountain Games community in the coming weeks.”

Learn more about upcoming changes and stay up-to-date at mountaingames.com.

GoPro Mountain Games athlete registration open: $130,000 up for grabs

More than $130,000 in prizes are up for grabs at the GoPro Mountain Games, returning to Vail for four days June 4-7.

Registration is open for athletes at www.mountaingames.com. Early bird pricing is available for most events.

Thousands of athletes (including dogs) will take on the 12-plus disciplines and 30-plus events at the Mountain Games. Last year, athletes included retired NHL forward Brooks Laich (and his dog); The Mud Stud (aka Jess Manning, of Utah); Xterra national champion, two-time USA winter triathlon champion and all-around stud Josiah Middaugh, among others.

Pro surfer Kai Lenny participated in the 2019 GoPro Mountain Games. The famous Jackson family, of Jackson Kayaks, are also regulars.
Benton Inscoe | Daily file photo

“Pros and joes compete side-by-side throughout the weekend — it’s amazing to see the friendships and camaraderie that form at this event,” said Dave Dressman, event director, in a news release. “You have folks who are trying something for the first time, and they’ll be getting encouragement from some of the top pro athletes in the world. It’s an experience unlike any other.”

The Mountain Games is put on each year by the Vail Valley Foundation and also features three nights of free concerts.

“This is going to be a phenomenal year,” Dressman said in the release. “We are bringing back some old favorites and have a few new things in play to level up the GoPro Mountain Games in 2020.”

Founded in 2002, the Mountain Games are known as an all-around mountain experience. The Mountain Games include 30-plus events in 12-plus disciplines and brings in more than 150 brands, 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes to Vail over four days. People of all ages, backgrounds and abilities compete in fishing, kayaking, SUP, rafting, climbing, mountain biking, road cycling, trail running, disc golf, DockDogs, yoga, photography and more.

Spectating is free.

Canine competitions have become a marquee part of the Mountain Games. This year’s competitions will see the return of the Canine Super Wall, adding to the DockDogs Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Dueling Dog events. Everyday dogs can give the pool a shot, too, at the Try DockDogs event, returning for its second year.

DockDogs is a fan favorite of the GoPro Mountain Games. There’s also other dog competitions over the four days in June. Want to test your dog in the pool. Check out the Try DockDogs event this year.
Barry Eckhaus | Daily file photo

The GMC Ultimate Mountain Challenge also returns in 2020, a multi-disciplined event over the course of the four days resulting in the crowning of the toughest mountain folk in the land.

Slacklines, the 8-Ball Kayak event and more return as well.

For more information and to sign up, visit www.mountaingames.com.

Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

GoPro Mountain Games brings first ebike race to Vail

The final day of the GoPro Mountain Games saw the first-ever ebike race in Vail, starting and finishing at the base of Golden Peak and taking riders both uphill and downhill, over and around jumps and even a snowfield.

The inaugural event saw over 60 competitors take to the Mountain Games course in three divisions: juniors, amateurs and pros.

“This is a historic day here in Vail,” said Steven Sheffield, strategic marketing manager for Bosch eBike Systems, the sponsor of the Mountain Games race along with Troy Lee Designs.

Local ebike company QuietKat was also seen around the racing venue, based out of Eagle.

“I think the biggest thing is people think an ebike is something with a throttle, where these are pedal-assist and you pedal them just like a bicycle,” said Victor Sheldon, 52, of San Diego, who competed in the pro division a day after winning the expert cross-country mountain-bike race at the Mountain Games. “It helps you get places not so much faster, just easier.”

Ebikes in the race assisted riders up to speeds of 20 mph, helping them on the uphill portions of the course. Weighing about 50 pounds, the bikes also help bring some extra speed downhill, too.

“With everybody on ebikes, it’s still going to be the strongest riders and the riders with the most skill that come out on top,” Sheffield said.

The course for the inaugural Mountain Games ebike race featured wooden jumps, rolls and ramps as well as a tunnel, all with views of the Gore Range. Riders were given the option to go around the features as well.

“There’s even a snowfield up there, bringing in some of the ski resort vibe,” Sheffield said. “It’s such a great location for an ebike event.”

Racers were respectful in the inaugural ebike event, all finishing with a bit of mud from the course.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Amory Kindle, 14, of Salida, who competed in his first ebike race at the Mountain Games. “It was nice going uphill compared to a normal bike.”

Bosch supplies ebike systems to many top brands in the industry, Sheffield said, and also hosts ebike races across the country. However, this was the first one in Vail. He said the ebikes is the fastest growing segment in the bicycle industry.

“Anyone whose ridden one, it’s easy to understand why,” he said.

Sheffield said he hopes to bring the race back again next year.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

VIDEO: Pro surfer Kai Lenny finds the waves in Vail

WATCH: Kai Lenny is known for hitting huge waves and setting records in hydrofoil races, but many didn’t know he’s also whitewater curious. Vail Daily reporter John LaConte caught up with the world-class waterman at the GoPro Mountain Games, where they discussed fitness, whitewater and waves, and, of course, snowboarding.

On the Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute