Out of the water and in its element – the 2003 Teva Mountain Games, matures as multi-mountain sports events with new sponsors, disciplines, entertainment and a bigger purse | VailDaily.com

Out of the water and in its element – the 2003 Teva Mountain Games, matures as multi-mountain sports events with new sponsors, disciplines, entertainment and a bigger purse

Geraldine Haldner
Special to the Daily/Toni Axel RodThe Teva Mountain Games, kayak competition gone multi-mountain sports event, will be held June 4 to June 8.

This summer, the 5-day event will get up June 4 and not stop moving until June 8.

With the addition of new events and new sponsors – Volkswagen of America and Sports Illustrated have signed multi-year sponsorship agreements – the 2003 Teva Mountain Games this summer will sport half a dozen new events for pro-athletes and spare-time amateurs to battle it out on bikes, on their feet, in kayaks and rafts and on the climbing wall.

“This is not just for athletes anymore this is an event where weekend warriors can come and see how they compare against others,” says Joel Heath of Untraditional Marketing, the organizer of the almost decade-old sporting event that started out as a whitewater festival and last year became a competition of nearly every activity the Vail Valley has to offer.

The fact that the cash purse for all events combined has grown to $50,000 won’t hurt to attract the world’s most illustrious competitors.

“It’ll bring the world’s best to Vail,” says Heath, adding that the games’ 5-year plan calls for as many as 5,000 athletes and 30,000 spectators coming to Vail by 2006.

This summer, Heath expects 800 athletes and as many as 10,000 spectators to turn Vail into a showcase of all things athletic.

From Tori Allen, the 14-year-old rock climbing wunderkind from Indianapolis, to Brad Ludden, Vail’s own kayak champion and Anita Ortiz, the valley’s reigning queen of running, spectators will be treated to a plethora of competitions that will take place in the Gore Creek, on Vail Mountain in the Vail Village as well as the surrounding valley.

Though “extreme hiking” or “the granola bar eating contest” are not on the schedule yet, events such as the Paddler Magazine Extreme Creek Race or the Dynamic Dog competitions, will test not only athletes’ limits but also the crowds’ sense of humor.

“We want to make it fun for everyone. This is a week full of events for everyone to come and compete for their moment of glory,” says Heath.

If a kayak race in a five-foot wide creek dropping 480-feet is a bit beyond your idea of adventure, there are a multitude of new and time-tested events to compete in or cheer others on.

Mountain bikers can qualify to race with the world’s best bikers in a public cross-country and a criterion race, as well as the crowd-pleasing trail-riding competitions.

Rafters will go head to head again in the Raft Paddlecross, a three-way race through one of the most challenging sections of the Eagle River.

As for the viewer-friendly rock climbing competitions, last year’s three disciplines of sport climbing will be joined by speed climbing and bouldering competitions to test the strength and problem-solving skills of pro-climbers and everyday amateurs alike.

One of this year’s highlights revolves around the trail-running competition of the mountain games. This year’s grueling six-mile race up and down Vail Mountain will serve as a qualifier race for the men’s and women’s Teva U.S. Trail Running National Team.

As for a competition that is going to the dogs, the Dynamic Dog competition will do just that.

Canines of varying degrees of owner-trained obedience and physical prowess can compete for the title of best overall mountain dog, with disciplines in the water as well as on land.

Spot, Fido, Dakota, Max and Daphne, are rumored to be the pooches to watch.

Also new this summer, the mountain games will offer a rich variety of entertainment events as well as cultural sweat-free competitions.

A mini-movie festival will pitch three adventure moviemakers against each other, while another competition will send filmmakers to the cutting room with festival footage to make the best 3-minute short.

Photographers too will get the chance to compete and be part of the festival’s own photo exhibit.

“Gear Town,” an interactive exhibit of the latest outdoor toys, will allow outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities to try out the newest boats and the latest in climbing gear.

Live music performances and parties will light up Vail’s starry summer sky for several of the festival’s evenings only to give way to day and half-day long workshops teaching everything from fly-fishing to proper barbequeing.

“The way it is going, the Teva Mountain Games will become the foremost outdoor adventure competition in the United States,” says Heath.

Last year, the Teva Mountain Games brought an estimated 7,000 spectators to Vail. Additionally, as many as 91 million viewers nationwide watched it on Fox Sports Network.

Geraldine Haldner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com

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