Put the hesitation aside: Let the GoPro Mountain Games begin | VailDaily.com

Put the hesitation aside: Let the GoPro Mountain Games begin

Welcome back, everyone

The GoPro Mountain Games are back and, with them, likely crowds. Yes, it’s been a weird 15 months, but it’s time to jump in with both feet. (Daily file photo)

The cynical way of looking at the GoPro Mountain Games is that it’s a shameless way of plugging the monolith that is summer in the Vail Valley, which we understand does not exist — Eagle County is not monolithic and not one singular valley.

Roughly every other Wednesday, we’ve got the 2021 VRD Bloch & Chapleau Town Mountain Bike Race Series. One of my favorite moments ever as a sports writer was covering the Tour de Wednesday as I was waiting for riders to come down from the Vail Uphill.

Walking among tourists who were off to dinner in Lionshead and hearing people saying, “Can you believe what these crazy people are doing,” was fun.

“They do this every other week,” I said to a bunch of them. More dropped jaws.

As Norm Peterson said on Cheers, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and I’m wearing Milkbone underpants.” What this has to do with the GoPro Mountain Games starting on Thursday is probably that the dogs pictured like Milkbones. (Daily file photo)

So it’s not surprising to have four bike races this weekend with the Mountain Games. It’s not surprising to have four running races associated with the festival. We’ve got the Dynafit Vail Trail Running Series, where runners do much more crazy stuff than Sunday’s 10K Spring Runnoff.

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Seriously, the Half Marathon of old when runners went up Vail and then down into the Back Bowls and back? That’s some crazy stuff, people.

We love our dogs, perhaps too much. Just looking out my window near Dowd Junction and people are in the river both in boats and waders. Who doesn’t do yoga or is yoga already a verb, as has been the plight of numerous nouns? I am yoga-ing?

By and large, the GoPro Mountain Games do a nice job of selling the valley in a somewhat crass but necessary way. (We understand someone has to pay the bills.)

A different Mountain Games

Like everything else after COVID-19, the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games — why do I still want to call them Teva? — are different than years past.

Thursday, aka today, should be the Steep Creek Championships up in Homestake. The International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup isn’t in town either. Both attract international competitors and, well, the NHL is moving heaven and earth to make it OK for the Montreal Canadiens to play the winner of the the Vegas-Colorado series (not going well for the home team). How are you getting a kayaker from Australia or a climber from Slovenia into the country?

Dane Jackson won Steep Creek in 2019, but was the only American male in the top five, while Janja Garnbret, of Slovenia, won the IFSC World Cup.

It’s easy to say these are Mountain Games Lite. It’s also a disservice.

Yes, we have had tourists in Eagle County since the beginning of COVID. I think I played golf with most of the Dallas Metroplex and their kids last summer. We’ve also had a ski season, though that definitely had a strange vibe to it.

Despite the hesitancy of the author to head back into crowds, he is always up for some 8-Ball at the GoPro Mountain Games. (Daily file photo)

After around 15 months, the return of the GoPro Mountain Games is another step toward whatever we call normal. We have to go back to the 2020 Burton U.S. Open in the last week of February of that year for a major event in the county.

No World Cup Birds of Prey. No Mountain Games. No Burton. No Colorado Classic. Keep on going.

So if there’s no Homestake Steep Creek or major cycling event on Friday night or no bouldering, we’re good. We almost want to hear that techno-music that is blasted non-stop in Vail for the next four days. Almost.

But …

We have no doubts that the 2021 Mountain Games will go off well. Seriously, what are the odds of State Bridge burning down again during this festival? (Sorry, old-school Mountain Games humor.)

Yet we’re still adjusting to this new world. Personally, I’ll tell you that I have issues with crowds these days, which is darn silly thing to say if you’re a sports writer. (I realized how silly that was when I actually typed it in the solitude of my apartment, to which I have gotten so used, and maybe that ain’t good.)

I’m vaccinated. I’ve been going to sports events since September. I go out every day to the market or the office or the golf course regularly. (The third is my favorite.) I actually hate wearing masks, which ironically I’ve only used at the doctor’s office since the mandate went away.

But 15 months into COVID, or whatever we will call this period, I don’t know what I’m going to do the next four days in the mob scene that is the Vail Village. Big crowds are too much for me.

Part of me is going to be freaked out about the number of people in the village, thinking it isn’t healthy, although odds are good that we are approaching good levels of vaccination.

It’s also just regular interaction with people. After 15 months holed up, by and large, this is going to be an assault on my senses, that techno music, the announcements, cheers, the dogs and so on.

I acknowledge that this is completely irrational and, in some ways, really silly, but this is still real. I am not suggesting that Freud be enclosed in a sound-proofed bubble, although my co-workers at the Vail Daily are firmly behind that proposal.

My bet, though, is that I’m not the only one. A lot of coping with COVID issues is realizing this. We get so isolated, it’s tough to talk to people so that when you need to talk to somebody it’s uncomfortable to talk to people. Fun cycle there.

So let’s give this a try. For those of us who are still a little hesitant about what the GoPro Mountain Games are going to be, we need a little stiffening of the spine. It is going to be OK, except for the techno music. (I really think Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti would be great music for kayaking. Just a suggestion.) We may be a little overwhelmed at first. But we can do this, and it’s helpful to be going out in public in a familiar place and setting.

Meanwhile, for all of you who are doing fine, first of all, way to go. I’d like to be where you are and I’m jealous. Second of all, let’s all just try to be nice this weekend, which does go against every grain of SWAG collection hunts which are the hallmark of this weekend. Please know that not everyone’s quite comfortable out there yet.

A lot of people are coming back into the world this weekend. A little consideration can go a long way.

We’ll see you at the Mountain Games.

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