GoPro Games expand with more events
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Register for an event or find out more about the GoPro Mountain Games from June 4 to 7 at http://www.mountaingames.com.
VAIL — Just when we thought Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games were all grown up, organizers of the summer outdoor festival announced the addition of several new — and innovative — events.
The GoPro Games has ushered in the summer season for 15 years now, bringing mountain events such as mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, bouldering, fly-fishing and even Dock Dogs. This year’s GoPro Games will include an additional day of competition and festival activity, now going from June 4-7.
“We experienced significantly larger crowds on Thursday last year, which reflects a desire to start the weekend earlier and enjoy all that the event has to offer,” said Mike Imhof, of the Vail Valley Foundation. “In response to this growth and demand, we will open Gear Town, Adventure Village and River Town on Thursday (June 4) and hold a selection of events, demos, group rides and free activities. All the fun and excitement of GoPro Mountain Games now starts one day earlier.”
The new events include: Coors Light S2 Stand Up Paddle Cross, Coors Light Down River R2 Raft Sprint, The Tudor Ultimate River Challenge and Vibram Disc Golf. The events were chosen based on feedback from a popular poll, participant surveys and market research, said Kate Peters of the Vail Valley Foundation.
“Our goal is to keep the event new and fresh while bringing an experience that is participatory and exciting for spectators,” she said.
Spectacle on the river
Perhaps the new event that might draw the most attention, due to number of potential wipeouts and splash factor, is the S2 SUP Cross. This is similar to the existing SUP cross event, where competitors on stand-up paddleboards go head-to-head on the river to get to the finish line first — except that the S2 event is done in tandem, with two people on one paddleboard. Teams must cross the finish line together, and on their boards.
Local paddleboarder Ken Hoeve said he’s excited to see the new race and plans to give the made-up event a try. The coordination between two people and the extra weight on the board should provide a challenge, he said.
“I think a race with two people on one board is completely made up,” said Hoeve, who regularly shares a paddleboard with his dog, but never with another human. “But I think it’s awesome. In my opinion, the good thing about the Mountain Games is that over all the years, they always try to come up with something new and creative, and do something bigger and better. I think people like to see carnage, so this event will be popular because of that,” he said.
Who’s the toughest river rat?
In addition, the R2 Raft Sprint will feature a 4-mile raft race on two-person rafts on class II and III whitewater, identical to the formats of the existing downriver kayaking and SUP sprint races.
The races will especially help the Eagle County-based U.S. Rafting Team prepare for national and world competition. The team has represented the United States at rafting worlds for several years.
“I know we will definitely be putting a couple of teams in the new river events,” said team member John Seelig. “This is a huge year for raft racing. The six-man national championships are on the Royal Gorge late June, then the four-man national championships are on the Gauley River in West Virginia in mid-September.”
Also new this year, the water events will have an overall champion — the winner of the Ultimate River Challenge. Much like the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, participants compete in three different events to be crowned the overall champion. In the case of the River Challenge, competitors must compete, back-to-back-to-back, in the Down River Kayak Sprint, Down River SUP Sprint and Down River R2 Raft Sprint on Gore Creek. The Ultimate Riverman and Ultimate Riverwoman will be crowned based on the lowest combined time in all three events.
Hoeve said he’s excited for the exposure the combined event can bring to the sport.
“It’s great because these aren’t dangerous courses, so people of all levels can participate,” he said. “There are kayakers who are now SUPing, but they don’t necessarily go race SUP, and vice versa, so it’s good for our sport to increase that cross popularity.”
Disc golf tourney
Not to be overshadowed by the river races, the final new event is a disc golf competition, complete with a prize purse.
Steve Klehfoth, one of the founders of the Flying Eagle Disc Society, said the new competition shows just how popular the sport has become. The Flying Eagle Disc Society is now in its third year and is on track for well over 100 members for the summer season, a more than two-fold increase from two years ago, he said.
The club regularly competes at disc golf tournaments around the state, but to have a competition at a big festival like the Mountain Games is special.
“Exposure at a major event like this will help to introduce it to a lot of people who had little to no knowledge of it before,” Klehfoth said. “Colorado also has a very large and close-knit disc golf community, and I think the response will be large now that it is a competitive event.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.