Mountain Games, fresh snow collide on Vail’s busiest day of 2022

Crowds enjoy holiday weekends in Vail

Cars line Vail’s Frontage Road on Thursday. The Frontage Road has been busy in recent days, with cars spilling out of the structures and onto the street nearly every day over the last week. Vail’s busiest day of the year, according to car counts, was Saturday.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

VAIL — Vail reported fresh snow on five straight mornings from Tuesday through Saturday, Feb. 22-26, and cars filled the parking structures and spilled onto the Frontage Road more often than not.

Many students across the country had several days off school for the Presidents’ Day holiday, and a winter version of the popular Mountain Games in Vail also drew guests to the area from out of town.

The result was the busiest day Vail has seen so far in 2022, according to car counts from the town of Vail.

The busy pair of weekends began on Thursday, Feb. 17, when both parking structures in Vail filled and 359 cars spilled onto the frontage road. Another 400 cars lined the Frontage Road on Feb. 18, and on Sunday, Feb. 20 and Monday, Feb. 21, cars also lined the Frontage Road.

On Wednesday, 243 cars lined the Frontage Road, on Thursday it was 546 cars, and Friday, 654 cars were parked on the Frontage Road. The highest spillover total for 2022 was recorded on Saturday with 655 cars. On Sunday, 303 cars were recorded.

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The town of Vail was able to react quickly, with Vail Transit Operations Manager Jordan Winters saying the town was able to bus guests from Frontage Road locations miles away to the Vail Transportation Center every 5-10 minutes.

“We’re very fortunate that even with the national driver shortage, we’re still able to provide a high level of service,” Winters said. “Operating the buses on busy Frontage Road days comes from the staff’s years of experience running large events, forecasting snowfall, having excellent mechanics to keep buses in service, and having an incredible team of bus drivers who are willing to step up and help with short notice.”

Mountain Games enhancement

Josh Ernst, of Breckenridge, visited Vail to compete in the Winter Mountain Games’ fat bike race Sunday.

“For my first time coming out here, I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’d definitely be back.”

The Vail Valley Foundation says this year’s Winter Mountain Games was a preview event which didn’t receive quite as much marketing and activation as a full-on event, but the test event went well enough to greenlight the Winter Mountain Games again for 2023.

Chloe Lutgring, of Glenwood Springs, visited Vail to compete in the Winter Mountain Games, as well. She competed in the fat bike race with her father, Hans.

“Fat biking in the winter is the best thing you can do to be ready for mountain biking in the summer,” Lutgring said.

Josiah Middaugh, of EagleVail, participated in the fat biking race, the “bootlegger” ski boot running race, and the snowshoe race. A former national champion snowshoe racer, Middaugh was defeated by his son, 18-year-old Sullivan Middaugh.

Middaugh said he hopes to see the Winter Mountain Games return next year.

“It’s a fun event which attracts some great competition,” he said.

Josiah Middaugh, of EagleVail, races in the Winter Mountain Games fat bike race on Sunday. Middaugh said the event attracted good competition from around the state.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Event timing

Tom Boyd with the Vail Valley Foundation said the Winter Mountain Games is most likely a go for 2023.

“In 2023, we’re all systems go,” he said. “Exactly when, though, is another question.”

Boyd said there’s two ways of looking at the timing of an event like the Winter Mountain Games. This year, the decision was made to host the event in the weekend immediately following President’s Day, to capitalize on the crowds which were likely to be in town already.

“When it’s one of the busiest weekends of the year, the point isn’t to bring more people, it’s to enhance the experience for the people who are already here,” Boyd said. “But if you do it when it’s not one of the busiest weekends of the year, you have more elbow room for the TV crews, journalists and athletes who come to take part in it.”

Boyd said a possibility for a less busy weekend for the Winter Mountain Games would be in early February, but organizers will need to discuss with their partners what makes more sense for all involved.

“We’ll see where we land on the timing,” Boyd said. “But the Mountain Games definitely sounds like it’s a go again for next winter.”

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