Persisting snowpack prompting course changes for GoPro Mountain Games | VailDaily.com

Persisting snowpack prompting course changes for GoPro Mountain Games

Josiah Middaugh participates in the10K Spring Runoff at the 2016 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail. The 10K Spring Runoff will take place on a different course in 2019 as the normal course still has snow on parts of it.
Townsend Bessent | Townsend@vaildaily.com |

Officials at the Vail Valley Foundation, which organizes the GoPro Mountain Games, have made adjustments to mountain biking and trail running events due high snowpack still remaining on Vail Mountain as we approach the mountain games, which take place Thursday through Sunday.

Mountain Games event director Dave Dressman said it’s a good problem to have.

“We love snow — it’s good for our mountains and our rivers, and it’s beautiful to see the snow capping our Gore Range at the head of our valley,” Dressman said. “When it comes to competing, there is simply too much snow and meltwater remaining on some of our traditional courses, so we are activating our alternate courses.”

The TIAA Bank XC Mountain Bike course and the Casio Pro Trek Smart 10K Spring Runoff will now take place on lower elevations on Vail Mountain, and organizers are confident that the events will still be held and still contain significant vertical.

Trails still closed

Other run and bike courses are not expected to be affected, but event officials are holding off on publishing full course maps to discourage pre-riding/running of the courses. All trails on Vail Mountain are currently closed as organizers work to minimize erosion. Organizers stressed that athletes caught riding or running on a closed portion of the course anytime between now and the event will be disqualified.

Warm weather is anticipated to fill the valley as the mountain games begin. However, at higher elevations, several feet of snow are expected to remain un-melted during the event, creating areas of meltwater in mid-elevations.

“In our current conditions, Vail Mountain’s trails are exceptionally sensitive to erosion,” Dressman said. “We are operating on Forest Service land, and it’s part of our obligation to do what we can to take care of the sensitive natural environment where we are fortunate enough to host our races each year.”

Snowpack in the Rockies is about 190 percent of normal, according to the National Weather Service. Spring storms have brought more precipitation to the area in recent weeks, but long-range forecasts call for more sun and summer conditions in and around the event window. Even with warm weather in coming weeks, organizers expect snow or meltwater to impede the higher-elevation portions of the running and biking trails on Vail Mountain when the Mountain Games get underway Thursday through Sunday.

Also watching rivers

If the weather heats up significantly, it could also bring high water to the event’s Gore Creek, Eagle River, and Homestake Creek competition venues.

“We’ll also be keeping tabs on water levels on the Eagle River, Homestake Creek and Gore Creek to make sure we’re running at appropriate levels when it comes time to race, but it’s too early to tell how weather will affect those events,” Dressman said.

The Vail Valley Foundation also noted that current course maps are subject to change. The Vail Valley Foundation will continue to communicate course conditions and any other updates by email, social media and via its website.

“It’s part of the process of running an event in a natural setting that we make adjustments,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s Tom Boyd, spokesman for the Mountain Games. “But when June rolls around, the sun typically comes out, our trails firm up, and we welcome tens of thousands of people to town to help us celebrate everything we love about mountain living.”

Learn more about 
the 2019 Mountain Games at http://www.mountaingames.com.