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GoPro event weekend one of Vail’s busiest

About the games

Where: Mostly in Vail Village and Gore Creek.

When: June 4-7

Events include: Mountain biking, kayaking, bouldering, a photography competition and concerts.

Sponsors include: GoPro cameras, Vasque boots, Vail Resorts and the town of Vail.

More info: http://www.mountaingames.com

VAIL — The town has been relatively quiet since the ski lifts closed in April. That ends this week, and in a big way.

The GoPro Mountain Games returns to Vail starting Thursday. That four-day weekend will bring dozens of events and activities — and thousands of spectators — to Vail Village.

The Mountain Games’ economic impact often depends on where a business is located and what it sells. For Kent Beidel and Tara Picklo, these games are serious business.

“I’d say it’s in the top three events we have,” said Beidel, who owns the Loaded Joe’s coffee shop in Vail Village. Also on that list is the two-week Christmas/New Year’s holiday stretch, as well as perhaps the biggest single-day event, July 4.

“It’s exactly the right crowd at the right time of year. They don’t just come to buy T-shirts any more.”Rayla KundolfOwner of Master Gallery

During the Mountain Games weekend, “There’s typically a line out the door and up the stairs,” Beidel said. “It can get really crazy.”

Picklo is the owner of Yeti’s Grind, a coffee shop overlooking Solaris Plaza. The Mountain Games weekend is near the top of the “busiest times” list at that shop, too.

This will be the fifth Mountain Games for Yeti’s — it’s the sixth for Loaded Joe’s — and the weekend just seems to get busier every year. For Picklo, the slackline event on Solaris Plaza has “drastically changed how our business handled GoPro — there’s just a constant stream of people.”

Evolution of the Games

The Mountain Games has evolved significantly throughout the years — a Jeep-sponsored whitewater event on the Eagle River near Minturn in the 1990s started the early-June action. The Teva Mountain Games sprung from that early idea. Once established, each year, seemed to bring more events and activities, especially after most events moved to Vail.

Perhaps the biggest single step, though, was the 2008 announcement that the Vail Valley Foundation would take over the games. The Foundation promotes events and programs ranging from after-school programs to the Hot Summer Nights concert series to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

The Foundation’s Effect

Sarah Franke is the director of communications and marketing for Group970 Restaurants, which operates the Chophouse restaurants in Beaver Creek and Vail, Blue Moose Pizza and others. Franke said bringing the Foundation into the Mountain Games has meant a lot to both the events and the community.

The Foundation has “the unique ability to reach out to different marketing avenues, based on who they are and the other events they promote,” Franke said. “They have all those contacts and sponsorships, so they’ve really be able to grow (the Mountain Games). It’s amazing what it’s developed into.”

The Group970 restaurants in Vail are in Lionshead, and there are no Mountain Games events in that part of town. Still, Franke said her company’s businesses see a boost from the events.

“A lot of guests come through on their way to the games, or on their way back,” Franke said. “But it fills the hotels up, and that’s great for us.”

It’s not just restaurants that see a benefit.

Most Businesses Benefit

Rayla Kundolf, owner of Masters Gallery in Vail Village, acknowledged thinking “I’m not going to see anything out of this” when the Mountain Games came to Vail more than a decade ago. Today is different.

“Those people have grown up and now they’re bringing their kids,” Kundolf said. From the early days when many participants were camping, young families are now staying in hotels.

Other people have come back for other summer events, Kundolf said.

In short, the Mountain Games have become what many first envisioned them to be — provide a big start to the summer season.

“It’s exactly the right crowd at the right time of year,” Kundolf said. “They don’t just come to buy T-shirts any more.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.


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