Mountain Games a boon to business
By the numbers
$4.87 million: Economic impact to Vail of the 2015 GoPro Mountain Games.
62,207: Spectators at the 2015 games.
3.1 nights: Average stay in paid Vail lodging (includes spectators, athletes, media).
86 percent: Came to Vail specifically for the Mountain Games.
Source: Vail Valley Foundation.
VAIL — Matt Morgan is thrilled that he was wrong about the GoPro Mountain Games. So are a lot of other area business owners and managers.
Morgan, the co-owner of the Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard restaurants in Vail, was skeptical at first about the possible economic impact of the games.
“I didn’t get it — I didn’t see it as a demographic that would do anything for us,” Morgan said.
Times have changed. Now, the Mountain Games mark the real start of summer in Vail, and people come in bunches, staying at hotels, eating at restaurants and shopping in shops.
It wasn’t always that way.
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Several years ago — call it 10 or so — the Mountain Games was dominated by a young crowd, many of whom camped or slept in their cars when they came for the events. It was those participants Morgan believed would populate pizza places, then buy food and drinks to take back to their campsites.
Throughout the course of those years, the Mountain Games became a big-time event.
Growing with GoPro
Town of Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald said the change coincides roughly with the Vail Valley Foundation’s purchase of the event from Untraditional Marketing, the original promoter of the games. The foundation bought the games in 2008 — hosting for the first time in 2009 — and soon had a new title sponsor lined up.
McDonald said bringing in GoPro — which is to ultra-portable digital video cameras what Kleenex is to facial tissues — took the Mountain Games to a new level.
McDonald said Teva, the footwear maker that was the original title sponsor, did a fine job. But GoPro “brought more brand power, more horsepower, more marketing power” to the games, she said.
Since then, Vail has seen lodging occupancy build with a combination of spectators, athletes and, importantly, sponsors.
“Some sponsors will bring in their top sales people,” McDonald said. “They’ll use it as an incentive trip or hold their sales meetings. There’s a really diverse group of folks coming in for this.”
As companies started signing on, more events were held near the sponsor tents. McDonald said the town’s whitewater facilities helped draw more events into Vail, too.
The Mountain Games has grown to the point that Vail Valley Foundation officials expect all the events to draw 65,000 total spectators to all events — although one person who attends three events is counted as three spectators.
Unlike the first days of the Mountain Games, more people are staying in hotels and other lodging.
Brian Butts, the general manager of the Evergreen Lodge, said Wednesday that the hotel is booked to about 96 percent capacity for Friday and Saturday, with a handful of rooms left.
The Mountain Games is a “huge deal for us,” Butts said, adding that guests run the gamut from vendors to participants to spectators.
“It’s our real kickoff to summer,” Butts said. “The whole offseason is spent doing repairs and cleaning to get ready.”
In terms of impact, Butts said the Mountain Games is roughly equivalent to the Burton U.S. Open Snowboard Championships in March.
“It’s a big, anchor event in terms of media, athletes and spectators,” Butts said. Those people account for a lot of room nights in Vail.
Many, many rooms
A Vail Valley Foundation analysis of the 2015 Mountain Games — conducted by local research company Intercept Insights — showed there were more than 3,400 room nights booked for the games last year.
It’s also a great way to get new people to Vail.
The analysis of the 2015 games showed that 86 percent of those who attended came to Vail specifically for the events. Better yet, from the town’s perspective, 90 percent of those who attended said they would be “extremely likely” to return.
Those new visitors have a chance to see what Vail and the entire valley have to offer away from the competition and entertainment sites.
People in Eagle hope some of the Mountain Games vibe travels that way this year during a mountain bike enduro race there. This is the first time the Mountain Games is holding events outside Vail and the upper stretches of Homestake Creek, above Red Cliff.
“It’s going to be fantastic for the town,” 7 Hermits Brewing Co. co-owner Matt Marple said. That brewery is in the final stages of a move, so it won’t be open for the enduro. Still, Marple said, the Mountain Games enduro is simply the latest in a series of big events that have relatively recently come to town.
Geoff Moser, a co-owner at Boone’s Wine and Spirits in Eagle, is also looking forward to the enduro. It’s a great chance to show off Eagle’s bike trails to a new audience, he said.
“The town of Eagle and the bike shops have put so much time and effort into the trails,” Moser said. “We’re just trying to stop (cyclists) before they go farther west.”
Moser said he doesn’t expect to add any staff for the enduro event.
“But we do expect to have all four registers busy,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.