'GoPro Mountain Games' festival set to launch in June

Formerly known as the Teva Mountain Games, the annual high-altitude summertime fest in Vail — tag line: “the premier celebration of mountain sports, lifestyle and music” — has been re-branded as the GoPro Mountain Games.

The camera company nabbed the sponsorship title plus has plans to change the way the Games are viewed. “You will see more GoPro cameras on athletes,” noted Rick Loughery of GoPro. “The video from our cameras will be even more integrated into the television productions” that come from the Games.

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GoPro camera rolling, an athlete drops into a whitewater course; photo by Zach Mahone

The official name will be changed to the GoPro Mountain Games. This name is in effect through 2015. The first GoPro Mountain Games kicks off June 6th in Vail, Colo.

Initially created in 2002, the Mountain Games has grown to host approximately 3,000 adventure athletes in eight sports each year. Nearly 50,000 spectators come annually for the four-day event, which features competitions from kayaking to mountain biking, a gear demo area, a vendor tent village, and concerts at night.

Athletes range from world-class, Olympian-level to the weekend warrior set. There are dog competitions, too. GearJunkie staff and editors have participated in the Games since 2006, including bike, trail run, kayak, and adventure race events.

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This summer, despite the title sponsor not every athlete will be required to strap on a helmet camera. The thrust of the GoPro sponsorship is branding for the company, which is also a main sponsor of the X Games festival.

But Duncan Horner of event organizer Vail Valley Foundation said it’s surprising “how little resistance we get” when putting GoPros on athletes. He continued, “This is probably because it benefits the athletes as much as it does the rest of us, allowing them a visual record of their performance to assist them improving their game.”

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Big air over Vail at the Games; photo by Zach Mahone

Massive amounts of video content is a result. At the X Games, which takes place at venues around the world, GoPro offers video course previews for fans to watch.

Athletes at the X Games wear the cameras in events such as the sponsored GoPro Snowmobile Best Trick contest and the GoPro BMX Big Air. The footage is available online and used for ESPN television shows.

GoPro has a large in-house media department. For the X Games, in addition to providing footage for ESPN, the company has plans to produce its own content by focusing on “athlete stories and cultural narratives.”

Such content will come out of the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, too. However the company has not yet committed to a plan. “It’s all shaping together this month,” Loughery said.

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Whitewater comp in Vail Village; photo by Preston Utley

How will GoPro change the Games in Vail? We asked Horner of the Vail Valley Foundation to elaborate: “We expect more of a focus on the athlete experience with GoPro.”

He noted that the reams of video content produced will make the Games more visible online and on television, where the GoPro Mountain Games will be broadcast as a three-part series on NBC Sports.

Horner continued, “We’ve seen GoPro transform other sports such as freestyle skiing and Formula One, which inspires us for larger audiences, greater participation, and elevated levels of competition.”

Strap on your helmet camera. Sign up for a race. We’ll see you in Vail this summer for the GoPro Mountain Games, a weekend that promises to be one of the most exciting in the world of outdoor adventure this year. Not to mention likely the most video point-of-view-documented sports weekend of all time.

—Stephen Regenold, editor of GearJunkie, has covered the Games in Vail since 2006. Earlier this month, contributing editor Sean McCoy raced in the “Ultimate Mountain Challenge” event at the Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer. Read his story “‘Ultimate Mt. Challenge’ a leg-killer, lung-crusher in Vail.”

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