GoPro Mountain Games has become Vail’s unofficial start of the summer tourist season | VailDaily.com

GoPro Mountain Games has become Vail’s unofficial start of the summer tourist season

The annual GoPro Mountain Games again drew thousands of people to Vail and the Vail Valley. The games have become the unofficial start to the summer tourist season in Vail.

VAIL — Summer in the Vail Valley used to start in earnest with Vail America Days over the Fourth of July. For the past several years, though, Vail's summer tourist season has kicked off with the Mountain Games.

This year's GoPro Mountain Games brought thousands of spectators and athletes to Vail, the Eagle River and Eagle for a weekend, and business owners say they're pleased with the results.

Larry Leith and his family own the Yeti's Grind coffee shops in Vail and Eagle. The Leiths live in West Vail, and Larry said cars over the weekend were parked along the frontage road to his home.

All of those people — an estimated 25,000 on Saturday, June 9 — attended more than 30 events.

Leith said it was all great fun.

"Having the slackline events (on Solaris Plaza), we were just sitting on the deck watching kids doing double flips," he said.

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Business was also bustling at La Cantina, the restaurant on the third level of the Vail Village Transportation Center.

"This is always one of our better weekends," La Cantina owner Richard Wheelock said. "This one was a little better; we were significantly busier this year than the year before."

Vail Segway is based out of the Evergreen Lodge this summer while it's usual space in Vail Village is being renovated. Business co-owner Seth Valentine said the business — which only hosts tours — was somewhat busy. But, Valentine added, the business had pledged to town officials that it wouldn't lead tours into congested areas during events.

Even with that restriction, Valentine said Vail Segway stayed busy, if not remarkably so.

With Eagle hosting enduro and BMX competitions, Leith said that Yeti's Grind location was also humming during the weekend. Combining those events with the previous weekend's Eagle Outside festival and the Bonfire Block Party, that was a pretty good several days, he said.

Getting an Early Start

As the games expand with more events in Lionshead Village, businesses there saw a boost, too.

At Bart & Yeti's, Cooper Sampson said the restaurant "did really well" over the weekend.

"We loved having (the games) in Lionshead," Sampson said.

At the Double Diamond Ski Shop, general manager Matt Carroll said business there was up a bit from the previous year. While there wasn't a run on purchases or bike rentals, Carroll said the store had a good bit of walk-through traffic.

"I think we'll see the benefits down the road," Carroll said, adding that on Monday, June 11, the store was busier with bike rentals than it had been through the weekend.

The Mountain Games "gives people an excuse to get into town a little early," Carroll said. "It's a good kick-off — it really showcases the town."

Leith, who first came to Vail in the 1980s, said this start to summer is far preferable to the days when offseason essentially lasted from the end of ski season to the Fourth of July.

"We've moved it up by four weeks," Leith said.

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

About those spectator numbers

The Vail Valley Foundation estimates there were roughly 70,000 spectators at this year’s GoPro Mountain Games. That doesn’t mean there were that many people in Vail.

The way spectator numbers are calculated, one person at one event is one spectator. One person who attends four days of events counts as four spectators.

Foundation media chief Tom Boyd wrote in an email that the organization estimates the largest number of people in town was about 25,000 on Saturday, June 9.