New GoPro Mountain Games event will race up Pepi’s Face on Vail Mountain
IF YOU GO:
What: GoPro Mountain Games Pepi’s Face race
Where: Vail Mountain at the base of Gondola One
When: 11:30 a.m., Sunday
More information: mountaingames.com.
Plenty of visitors to Vail have scrunched their faces in consternation as they’ve stood atop the icy slope of Pepi’s Face at the base of Vail Mountain.
This summer, we’re turning that old Vail trope on its head.
At the Pepi’s Face-Off trail running event, competitors will line up at the bottom of Pepi’s face, and give themselves a chance to conquer that storied Vail Mountain slope in a whole new way: on foot, running laps up and down a comparatively smooth, grassy version of Pepi’s Face as many times as possible in a 30-minute stretch.
“For years, that stretch of mountain has been making people look bad. Hundreds of skiers each year find themselves stuck at the top, and all they can do is slip, tumble, or sometimes crawl their way down the hill,” said Mac Garnsey, Director of Operations for the Vail Valley Foundation, which hosts the Mountain Games each year. “At the bottom, onlookers have cheered and jeered from the safety of the Los Amigos deck, usually with a margarita in hand. This summer, the tables have turned, it’s time for revenge.”
three or four laps tops
Tackling the slope from below will be far less slippery, Garnsey promised, though it still presents a challenge worthy of the Mountain Games’ moniker.
It doesn’t hurt that there’s a $3,500 prize purse.
“My best guess is we’ll see the top competitors do 3 or 4 laps. For kids and some other folks, just up and back will be plenty,” Garnsey said.
The start and finish will be at Mountain Plaza adjacent to Gondola One. From there, competitors will clamber 400 feet up Pepi’s Face, a black-diamond run, then loop around at the top and scuttle, skid, or slide back down to the base.
After 30 minutes, the horn will sound and it’s a race to the finish. The $1,000 winner’s prize (for both men and women) will go to the person with the most laps and the fastest time to the finish after the horn blows. Men’s and women’s second place is $500 and third is $250.
“For anyone who has ever slid face-first down Pepi’s Face to the cheers of the watchers below, this is a great opportunity to come back and show the mountain who’s boss,” Garnsey said. “And for those who have conquered it in wintertime, now it’s time to complete the circle and take it on in summertime.”
The event gets under way Sunday at 11:30 a.m. And, yes, there will most definitely still be hundreds of onlookers at the base of the mountain or kicking back on the Los Amigos deck, watching and waiting for any sign of carnage.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Garnsey said.
Registration is open now and available at mountaingames.com.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.