Estimated 80,000 people, 3,300 athletes attend 2017 GoPro Mountain Games |

Estimated 80,000 people, 3,300 athletes attend 2017 GoPro Mountain Games

Hunter Katich competes in the kayak freestyle event at the GoPro Mountain Games on Saturday. According to numbers from the Vail Valley Foundation, the event's organizer, 3,300 athletes competed in this year's Mountain Games.
Chelsea Tuttle | Special to the Daily |

By the numbers

30: Approximate number of sponsors for the 2008 Teva Mountain Games.

145: Approximate number of sponsors for the 2017 GoPro Mountain Games.

350: Approximate number of volunteers working this year’s games.

1,085: Cars parked on Vail’s frontage roads June 10.

Sources: Vail Valley Foundation, town of Vail

VAIL — The curtain is barely closed on the GoPro Mountain Games, but planning has already started for future events.

Dave Dressman, the Vail Valley Foundation’s event director for the games, has worked on the events since the foundation acquired the event in 2008. Dressman said in those few years, attendance has more than doubled and sponsorships have increased nearly fivefold. With that kind of growth, it’s no surprise that planning the event has become a full-time job.

“It really doesn’t stop now,” Dressman said.

While those plans will take some time to jell, there’s already a tentative window for the 2018 edition of the games: June 7-10.

As planning for 2018 continues, a lot of information from this year’s games will inform what next year will look like.

Much of that planning will be well-defined, from the number of volunteers to expanding bus service to finding better ways for people to navigate the events. But there’s always a wild card: weather.

This year’s games were held in virtually perfect conditions, with good, but not overwhelming, streamflows and warm, sunny weather.

“We have to give Mother Nature credit,” Dressman said, adding that if conditions cooperate, planning will ensure a great event.

This year’s games were the best-attended ever. The 2016 Mountain Games drew an estimated 67,000 people. Dressman said he expects the final tally for 2017 to approach 80,000.

What is known is this year’s games set records for registered competitors — about 3,300 — as well as more than 145 vendor tents.

A number of those sponsors set up shop in and near Adventure Town in Lionshead Village. This was the second year there have been Mountain Games events in Lionshead, with more events and action in this location in 2017 than there were for the 2016 games.

A boost for Lionshead

Matt Carroll, general manager of the Double Diamond ski and sports shop in Lionshead, said the store saw a good increase in traffic this year. The games are a benefit for Lionshead businesses, Carroll said, adding that there are benefits to all of Vail from spreading out events.

“It spreads out the people,” Carroll said.

The Mountain Games have also become Vail’s summer kickoff, Carroll added, bringing people — and energy — to the resort villages.

While organizers added events to Lionshead this year, Vail Valley Foundation President and CEO Mike Imhof said the Mountain Games isn’t going to expand simply for the sake of expanding. If expanding events currently held outside of Vail Village makes sense, then that will happen, Imhof said. But expanding activities at Lionshead, or Minturn’s Maloit Park, or in Eagle, will have to fit into existing ideas for the games.

That means the bulk of activities will remain in and around Vail Village.

To deal with growing crowds, organizers this year upgraded the event’s website to be more mobile-friendly, added more signs around Vail, provided more shade and access to water and added food vendors.

For 2018, Imhof said a big part of the planning will look at how to make getting into and out of the games a bit easier.

Acknowledging that getting in and out of any big event has its share of headaches, Imhof said more effort will be devoted to getting people to walk, bike or bus to events.

Bigger than July 4?

This year’s events filled the town’s parking structures. On Saturday, the town of Vail reports there were 1,085 cars parked along the town’s frontage roads. For comparison, there were 959 cars parked along the frontage roads on July 4, 2016. Neither of those are records — that’s more than 2,100 — but that’s still a lot of cars parked on the frontage roads.

More people walking, riding buses or biking in could help that crush, Imhof said.

Dressman said he’d like to see a bike valet system in 2018 that would allow people to ride to specific points, park and then walk in without having to haul their bikes around with them.

While the Mountain Games is growing, that growth has been gradual. Imhof said that’s important in maintaining a great event.

But as the event does grow, Imhof added, it’s important to ensure “we’re not losing a core constituency.”

That happens with planning — and a bit of help from the weather.

While the work has already begun on future events, Dressman allowed himself a moment to reflect on this year’s edition of the games.

“We really had one heck of a weekend,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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