Vail Winter Mountain Games returns in Feb.
‘Preview’ event includes competitions, music and gear town
The Vail Valley Foundation is bringing back the Winter Mountain Games.
The games, last held in 2013, will return this winter on a “preview” basis the weekend of Feb. 25 — 27, 2022. The games will feature competitions in “skimo,” essentially uphill racing, along with showshoe racing and a fat tire bike challenge.
In addition to the competitions, the weekend will include film showings, gear demos, sponsor and après events and music.
The weekend will feature free concerts at Solaris Plaza in Vail Village. The Feb. 25 show is Low Cut Connie opening for Galactic. The opening act for the Feb. 26 show hasn’t yet been announced, but the headliner is Moon Taxi.
The 2022 preview weekend is a warm-up for 2023, which will add events. At the top of that list is a sanctioned ice climbing event.
Local climbers won’t have to worry about too much traffic on the East Vail Fang. Instead, that competition will have climbers tackle an artificial wall. But that isn’t until 2023.
Filling in for U.S. Open
The Winter Mountain Games’ first weekend will be around the time of year when the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships took place. That event, long a staple of Vail’s winter calendar, looks like it’s gone for good, with Burton deciding to move to an international contest format.
The Winter Mountain Games won’t replace the impact of the U.S. Open just yet. But even the first weekend will put a buzz into the town just before spring break crowds arrive.
“I think it’s awesome,” Vail business owner Mark Gordon said, adding that he expects the Vail Valley Foundation to do its usual good work with this event.
With the loss of the U.S. Open, “we have a big hole in the schedule now and that needs filling.”
Gordon was a Vail Town Council Member when the town was asked to host the summer Mountain Games. He remembers the skepticism then about the games, and believes the winter version could eventually have a big effect on the town.
Gordon said the biggest impact of the Winter Games is demographic.
“Vail is the place for new things, and we need something that appeals to a younger audience,” he said.
Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey serves on the Vail Commission for Special Events. Wadey said the Winter Games preview is a great chance to test the Vail market for those alternative competitions.
Wadey said she’s also optimistic that the gear vendors will complement local businesses.
“The Vail Valley Foundation has always been very good about working with the business community,” Wadey said. Brands that have gear in local shops are generally good about working with those shops, she added, making sure that a one-weekend event doesn’t cut into sales of local shops.
Vail Special Events Coordinator Jeremy Gross said the Winter Games will have some of the same appeal as the summer version, particularly when it comes to participation by local or area athletes.
Gross said that among this year’s events, skimo may be the fastest-growing. The event will be included in the 2026 Winter Olympics. Skimo is a little like skinning up a ski hill at night, only “faster, with more lycra and in daylight,” Gross said.
Gross said gear town displays are probably more popular in the summer. But, he added, Vail has recently put an emphasis on free musical performances in the resort villages.
“We’re really excited about the additional vibrancy the games could bring,” Gross said. He’s also excited about the potential for growth in the events. But, he added, “It’s a different audience in the winter. It may be many years before winter becomes the size and scale of the summer games.”
What: Winter Mountain Games
When: Feb. 25 — 27, 2022
Events: Ski mountaineering; snowshoe racing; fat tire bike challenge.
Music includes: Low Cut Connie and Galactic Feb 25; Moon Taxi and a band to be determined Feb. 26.
More information: winter.mountaingames.com.