GoPro Mountain Games provide economic boost for Vail |

GoPro Mountain Games provide economic boost for Vail

Lauren Glendenning
Dominique Taylor | Daily file photo

VAIL — When the Teva Mountain Games kicked off in Vail 12 years ago, it kicked off during a time when Vail’s offseason was still very much a dead, drab time of year to be in town.

During the years, Vail’s offseason has shrunk, and the Mountain Games have grown. Last year, the Vail Valley Foundation, the organizer of the games, announced Teva would depart as the title sponsor and GoPro would take its place. The announcement marked the next point in the evolution of the Mountain Games — an event that has continued to evolve year after year since its inception.

The town of Vail was essentially a ghost town in early June 2002, when the Mountain Games were founded. That’s how Mountain Games founder Joel Heath, president of Teva, recalled the first year of the event during its 10th anniversary in 2011.

“When we started this event, you couldn’t find a place to have lunch, let alone stay overnight,” Heath told the Vail Daily.

During the years, with the advent of the Vail Commission on Special Events and the Vail Local Marketing District, the town of Vail has done wonders for changing its image as strictly a winter resort. And as summers have grown, so have the Mountain Games.

Last summer, the Vail Valley Foundation did surveys with Mountain Games spectators to learn more about where these thousands of people come from. Some of the information learned from the survey helps paint the picture of why Vail’s image has not only changed, but has momentum for future summer success.

“The percentage of first-time attendees has trended upward over the last three years, which is usually a sign of increasing attendance year-over-year,” the survey, prepared by Intercept Insight LLC, reported.

The survey also found that 63 percent of Mountain Games spectators return year-over-year, with 86 percent very likely or extremely likely to return to the Mountain Games each year, and 20 percent have attended for five or more years.

The reason for the success is the collaboration during the years, both with the sponsors, event organizers and the town. The Vail Valley Foundation made sure the event never left town, too, recalls John Dakin, the foundation’s vice president of communications.

That decision has helped create brand awareness for Vail as a summer destination. And the Intercept Insight survey data proves the point that destination guests — specifically those who stay in paid lodging — spend more money.

In 2012, the Mountain Games visitors who stayed in paid lodging spent more than $2.1 million, according to the survey. Conversely, those who stayed overnight but not in paid lodging — such as at a friend’s place or in a van parked in the town’s parking structure — spent $685,500.

And while the level of spending is one part of the event’s success, the exposure is also a large part. Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said of GoPro’s new role as title sponsor that the company will help spread recognition of the Mountain Games globally.

“Not only are we seeing new events being added to the Mountain Games but we are enjoying the Vail Valley being exposed to an even larger international crowd via the Games, as well as a new and dynamic media landscape that has evolved through the event,” Folz said.

Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at or 970-748-2983.

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