| VailDaily.com

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

Wearable tech at the GoPro Mountain Games: Vail Daily On the Hill

With Pepi watching, Mike Kloser wins Ultimate Mountain Challenge at GoPro Mountain Games in Vail

VAIL – It was a glorious day for local legends Pepi Gramshammer and Mike Kloser on Sunday.

The pair of mountain athletes of different specialties, from different generations, whose names are among the most well known in Eagle County, were both at the base of Gondola One for the wrap up of the GoPro Mountain Games’ Ultimate Mountain Challenge on Sunday. Pepi sent off runners in the Pepi’s Face Off race, and Kloser put together a performance good enough for the win in the six-event Ultimate Mountain Challenge.

Pepi’s Face Off was the final event in the challenge, which also included five other competitions leading up to the race up Pepe’s Face, the steep ski run at the base of the mountain.

Kloser, a former world champion adventure racer, said going into Sunday, he knew his friend and longtime rival Josiah Middaugh would win the Ultimate Mountain Challenge if he won the Pepi’s Face Off race.

Kloser was surprised to learn he had won.

Mike Kloser crosses the finish line in the Pepi’s Face Off at the 2019 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail.
Kevin Arnold | Special to the Daily

“When the day started and I found out I was tied with Josiah … I thought, if he doesn’t win, and I take top 10, I should be guaranteed second place,” Kloser said. “I thought I was racing for second place the whole day.”

Mountain bike ‘master’

Middaugh finished second in the Pepi’s Face Off, with his 15-year-old son finishing third. Kloser finished 10th.

“I had to bust my butt to get top 10, it was hard,” Kloser said. “There was once a day where I could beat Josiah. But those days have come and gone.”

At 59 years old, Kloser was by far the oldest competitor in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. Middaugh, at 40, was actually the nearest in age to Kloser, along with Eric Holmlund, who finished eighth. Middaugh was second overall in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge.

By competing in the Masters sport division of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge’s XC Mountain Bike event, which took place Saturday, Kloser said he was able to gain his advantage.

“The masters is a competitive category, it’s 45 plus, I didn’t want to sandbag, but age wise, I’m 59,” Kloser said. “But when you look at the results, timing wise I was right in the ballpark where I could have stepped up to the plate if I needed to in the vet expert, 35-plus category. I didn’t have to give it full gas in my class.”

Pepi’s Face now a summer attraction

In sounding the horn to start off the action at the Pepi’s Face Off on Sunday, Pepi Gramshammer said he was surprised to see people running up the ski run.

“I’d rather ski down,” he said.

Now 86, Pepi arrived in Vail in 1962, the same year Vail Mountain started operation. Pepi was a champion Alpine skier who was lured to Vail as an ambassador of sorts, a skier who could make the mountain look good with his skillful navigation of the terrain. Pepi fell in love with the area and started a hotel and restaurant in town with his wife, Sheika. The Pepe’s Face ski run was named after him, a steep piece of terrain that is visible from the base of the mountain, where onlookers enjoy watching skiers and snowboarders wreck and slide down to the base of the slopes.

On Sunday, Sheika said she was pleasantly surprised to learn that Pepi’s Face is now a summer attraction, as well.

“I had no idea,” she said. “That’s a wonderful honor for Pepi.”

A couple of weeks ago, the Vail Valley Foundation suggested to Sheika that it would be nice if Pepi could be there for the race.

“Of course he would be there,” Sheika said with a laugh. “I will make sure he will be there.”

When Sheika told Pepi there was a race on Pepi’s Face, “He said ‘How will they do it? Where are they getting the snow from?’” Sheika said.

“I have a picture from August 6, 1989, a picture of Pepi skiing down Pepi’s Face,” Sheika said. “Because they made the snowmaking that year for the World Championships.”

Thankfully, there was wonderful weather for the Gramhammers to enjoy on Sunday at the base of Vail Mountain.

“But we would have been here even if it was raining,” Sheika said.

Was that Brooks Laich casting lines at the GoPro Mountain Games?

Yeah, it sure was.

The NHL star center who played for the Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators made an appearance on Saturday afternoon at the GoPro Mountain Games to cast some lines before the 2 Fly X-Stream Casting Competition.

How did he match up against a pro?

You can probably imagine how this goes.

After a few commendable casts, at the targets, with some merit but mostly to the crowd’s amusement, Laich challenged Audrey Wilson, who was competing in the women’s semifinals to follow.

“I just want to see you hit that target,” Laich said as he pointed toward a hoop target hanging from under the International Bridge in Vail, the farthest away of all the targets.

Wilson hit the target, and a few others.

Morale booster

One can argue there’s an extra bump of morale to be won from ousting an NHL star in any side competition.

Regardless, Wilson was on fire Saturday. She proceeded to take first in the semifinals, with a commanding 7 target hits that overshadowed the 3 hits by her runner-up, Eagle resident and last year’s second place winner Amanda Hertzfeld.

Fish first, talk hockey later

Saturday was all about fishing for Laich.

The hockey talk between him and the announcer was brief. Though within that time, he did squeeze in a few nice words about the home team.

“You guys have a great hockey team,” Laich said of the Colorado Avalanche. “They’re doing it right in Denver.”

Now an unrestricted free agent, Laich’s future with the NHL is unknown. He chuckled when the announcer entertained the idea of coming to play for the Avs. But Laich didn’t seem concerned; he seemed to be in fishing mode.

“They can call me if they want,” he said.

On Sunday, Laich participated in Pepi’s Face-Off, a race up a steep ski run on Vail Mountain and back down — as many times possible in 30 minutes. He was competing with his dog, who got tired and required a few stops.

Laich was in Vail for the first time, he said, enjoying his time, and freedom, away from professional sports.

WATCH: Onewheel ride at the GoPro Mountain Games

Race for the Rail moves from Vail to Northstar

VAIL – After experiencing tremendous growth, the Race for the Rail Onewheel cross competition will not be held at the 2019 GoPro Mountain Games, as it has in years past.

Jack Mudd with Onewheel said the company had to make the decision with a heavy heart, as the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail has always been such a big part of the Onewheel community.

“We had 75 entrants last year and that’s looking like it’s going to double or triple,” Mudd said. “The Mountain Games has been such a wonderful experience for us, and has been so good to us, but it’s time to cast off on our own.”

‘Mountain Games is special’

The Race for the Rail will take place at Northstar Resort in Lake Tahoe August 1-4. Mudd said the format developed over the course of four years of experimenting in Vail will be refined even further in Tahoe, but rough-and-tumble competitors who looked forward to racing at Golden Peak for its variety of terrain and head-to-head racing opportunities won’t be disappointed in Tahoe.

“I remember our first year, we were in town by (10th Mountain Whiskey), and we just had a couple of ramps which we built by hand,” Mudd recalls. “We built the ramps outside of Home Depot the night before.”

By 2018, a four-person head-to-head race had become a main attraction at Golden Peak, where spectators lined a course that contained dirt, asphalt, hills, banked turns, jumps and a variety of other challenging features.

“I’ve done a ton of events, all over the country, and Mountain Games really is special,” Mudd said. “We have employees we’ve met at the Mountain Games, made lifelong friends there, it’s been amazing.”

Mudd said as the Race for the Rail course continues to grow each year, the fact that they’ll have the Northstar venue all to themselves in early August will allow it to grow even more.

“The sport needs progression, and that’s what we’re seeking (in Tahoe),” Mudd said. “But Mountain Games is so special to us, we’re hoping to find a way to continue to be there in the future.”

Rentals still available

As electric skateboards, scooters, bikes and unicycles started to become ubiquitous across the U.S., the Onewheel brand of electric personal mobility device found itself to inhabit a particular niche with its offroad capabilities, long battery life and fast recharging capabilities. For many people, the GoPro Mountain Games was the first time they had ever seen the device in action.

Professional skier Taylor Seaton said he’ll never forget the first time he saw one in Vail in 2015.

“It was different than anything I had ever seen,” Seaton said. “A really impressive toy for sure.”

Seaton entered the Race for the Rail in 2016, and said since then riding a Onewheel and seeing the device around town has become an integral part of the Mountain Games experience for him.

“The funny thing is, already I’ve seen tons of other people on them as the Mountain Games are getting set up,” Seaton said Wednesday. “So even though the Race for the Rail isn’t here this year, I think you’re still going to see a lot of them around.”

Rocky Mountain Adventure Rentals in Eagle-Vail will have Onewheels available for rent during the Mountain Games and beyond. Owner Stan Morris said the product fits in perfectly with his unique selection of adventure toys.

“I saw an old surfer from California get on one, a guy in his 60s, he took one lap around the parking lot and came back and bought one,” Morris said. “I knew it was a perfect device for this area. People can rent them here and hop right on the rec path through Dowd Junction into Vail. We’ve been getting 15 to 19 miles on a single charge.”