Vail Valley: Hatchets, hammers and trees |

Vail Valley: Hatchets, hammers and trees

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Like many good ideas, Man of the Cliff was born outside, next to a campfire in Colorado’s Vail Valley. Fueled by beers, the idea for an outdoor competition featuring events like ax throwing and keg tossing would resurface at backyard get-togethers at the home of Red Cliff couple Adam Williams and Amanda Armour.

“It was always like a conversation about starting a band where it is a great idea when you are a few beers in, but nothing ever comes of it,” Williams said.

That is until five weeks ago when the discussion resurfaced, again over beers, on Mango’s deck.

“We asked the owner if he had any open weekends in October where he could host our event,” Williams said. “We booked this coming weekend and were thrilled, but woke up the next morning wondering what we had gotten ourselves into in such a short time frame.”

Fast forward to this week. On Friday, men and women alike can start swinging axes and throwing hatchets in Red Cliff in preparation for the inaugural Man of the Cliff event. On Saturday and Sunday events start at 11:30 a.m. and go until dusk. All of the events will take place in Mango’s parking lot.

Event organizers considered about 20 events in all for the Man of the Cliff competition, but eventually narrowed it down to six.

“People seemed to want events that included shotguns and chainsaws, but not this year,” Williams said. “Maybe in a few years, after we can prove to the insurance company that look, this isn’t that dangerous.”

Competitions include a hatchet toss into a wood target, a sledgehammer throw at pumpkins sitting on stumps, a keg toss where you throw a keg backwards over your head and a bar, a woodchopping speed event, traditional archery and a caber toss. A caber, for those of you wondering, is a 22-foot tree that has all of the limbs removed and is rounded on the bottom.

“You hold it down low, take a few steps and throw it. It has to go end over end,” Armour said. Women will likely use 16-foot trees.

Group competitions include archery, ax throwing and tug of war. Spectators can participate (for free) in a bean bag toss and hula hoop competitions, and there will be prizes for the best beards, best flannel shirts and more. Prizes include everything from T-shirts and pint glasses, to gift certificates to local restaurants, a chain saw from True Value in Silverthorne, a Never Summer snowboard and a new fly rod.

Williams and Armour have been scouring Craigslist the past few weeks for sledgehammers, hatchets, archery equipment and other things to use at the event.

“We spent a lot of time on the Front Range, going to sheds and people’s garages buying equipment,” Williams said.

They tried to keep the expenses as low as possible as the proceeds from the event will be given to First Descents, a local nonprofit that provides whitewater kayaking camps for young adults with cancer.

The First Descents connection is part of the reason West Vail resident Tom Jaffe will compete. That, and he wants to show everyone what he’s made of.

“It’s time to prove who the manliest man is,” Jaffe said. “The whole thing is such a good, funny idea. I think its fun to push the manly part of it.”

But even though the event is called Man of the Cliff, women are encouraged to participate as well.

“I’d love to have a woman win,” Armour said. “I think the men would go crazy.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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