Celebratory atmosphere defines 2021 GoPro Mountain Games
Photo: Jon Resnick

Celebratory atmosphere defines 2021 GoPro Mountain Games

Posted by: Tom Boyd

Only a few short months ago, it was unclear exactly what the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail would look and feel like.

After four days of athletes, art, music, and mountains, the return of the event can be characterized with one word: celebratory.

“To welcome people back to this beautiful community was a wonderful feeling,” said Mike Imhof, President of the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation which hosts the event in the second weekend of June in Vail each year (2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic). “This event marked the return of summer, of vitality, and of a full-fledged summer season for our local businesses and our economy.”

As late as May of 2021, it wasn’t clear if the event would be able to fully welcome spectators. By May 19, the vast majority of public health restrictions that govern the event were lifted, and in a few short weeks the event was able to grow in terms of events offered, venue footprints, spectator numbers and athlete participation.

Tens of thousands of spectators came to Vail to enjoy the event over four days, and more than 2,000 unique pro and amateur athletes took part. Highlights of athletic competition include the victory of seven-time adidas Terrex 10K Spring Runoff champion Joseph Gray, a spectacular Junk Brands Pepi’s Face-Off event, the ever-popular Orijen DockDogs events returning to Lionshead, a string of victories from whitewater queen Emily Jackson, nationally-ranked contenders battling it out in the TIAA Bank XC Mountain Bike races (plus a too-cute for words TIAA Bank Kids Bike event), and a spectacular year for YETI Catch Wars and YETI 2 Fly X-Stream fishing competitions, and a whole lot more. Learn more about the event’s athletic competitions HERE.

The event’s music was also a major attraction, not only with concerts at Solaris Plaza in the daytime, but also three evenings of concerts at the Vail Valley Foundation’s Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater with sold-out shows from Yonder Mountain String Band June 10, and Bob Weir & Wolf Bros June 11 and 12.

The 2021 event also featured a daily live show from Outside TV, a first for the event, and an elevated digital and multi-media presence with well-known hosts, athletes, and social media influencers like Selema Masekela, Pat Parnell, Chris Davenport, Max Rantz-McDonald, Wade Holland, Abby Ruhman, Ariel Tweto, Brooks Laich, Richie Schley, Orlando Franklin, Arielle Shipe, Nick Troutman, Eagle McMahon, Wiley the Dalmation, artists Chris Benchetler & Skye Walker, and so many more.

Taking the Mountain Games to the digital world was always a part of the plan, organizers say, but being able to openly welcome spectators and raise venue and event capacities was an additional bonus.

“Planning for this event is always a year-round process, but this year we are exceptionally proud of our team, our long-standing partnerships with Vail Resorts and Town of Vail, and all our volunteers, partners and sponsors. We are grateful for the exceptional leadership from our state, Eagle County Public Health, Vail Health, and our incredible community which has allowed us to responsibly welcome back the excitement and energy that the GoPro Mountain Games is known for,” Imhof said.

The 2021 version of the event did not include a handful of events or activities that are normally part of the programming. Organizers said that when the event returns to Vail June 9-12, 2022, they expect to be able to bring back most, if not all, of what the event offered in 2019. In that year, the event welcomed 83,000-plus spectators and nearly 3,000 athletes.

More than any other year, Vail Valley Foundation organizers said that partnership played a key role in the success of the event, including support from GoPro, Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, GMC, Go RVing, L.L.Bean, Nature Valley, Outside Magazine, YETI, Bosch, TIAA Bank, Pacifico, Mountain House, adidas Terrex, Tincup, Orijen, Chewy, Lifestraw, & JUNK Brands, among many more.

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