'Winter Mountain Games' kicks off today (GearJunkie on-site)

Welcome to the 2013 Winter Mountain Games, presented by Eddie Bauer, and featuring such rowdy and rigorous outdoor sports as snow-bike criterium, uphill running, ski-mountaineering racing, and a Telemark “big air” ski jumping contest. This all mingles into one wild weekend of outdoor athleticism, music, and parties, and it kicks off today in Vail.

Gear Junkie is on site to watch it all go down and get a good aerobic butt-kicking in the process. We’ve been involved with the Winter Mountain Games (formerly the Teva Mountain Games) for several years, with editors competing in events at the summer and winter versions.

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Snowbike hucking, among the events at the Winter Mountain Games

Starting today, we again jump into the fun with the “Ultimate Mountain Challenge,” a multisport competition that begins with a 10K cross-country ski race. Editor Sean McCoy will do all three of the “ultimate” events, beginning with the XC race today, then tomorrow a tough ski-mountaineering course up and over Vail Resort.

On Sunday, the Ultimate Mountain Challenge concludes with an “Uphill Sprint,” which is a puke-your-guts-out aerobic feat where snowshoers and runners with spiked shoes head uphill a couple thousand feet on snow.

GearJunkie covered the uphill run last year at the Games in the story “Yaktrax and Frankenspikes: Gear for Running Uphill on Snow.”

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2012 “Uphill Sprint” winner Josiah Middaugh cranking near the top; photo © David Clifford

Last year, GearJunkie editor Stephen Regenold finished in 3rd place overall in the amateur division at the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. (See his report on the ski-mountaineering race, “Big Ups, Big Downs: Welcome to the Sport of ‘SkiMo’.”)

Editor Sean McCoy will work to beat Regenold’s time this year on the XC trails and slopes of Vail. Said McCoy, joking, “My goal is to not be hungover for a single start, which could be challenging with the packed musical lineup,” which is headlined by Ana Sia & Kraddy, the Flobots, and John Browns Body.

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Skiers start off from Vail village during the 2012 SkiMo race

Beyond the party atmosphere, the Winter Games, now in its second year, is quite prestigious in some circles. The SkiMo Race, for example, comes with the largest purse in North America and is part of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup.

The Nordic 10K race has $2,000 in prize money, and an invite-only ice climbing competition draws some of the biggest names in the sport. Telemark Big Air offers a $5,000 purse.

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Ice climbing tower for Vail comps

Yet this is a participant-oriented event. The core athletes of the Mountain Games are weekend warriors, experienced and novice alike, who yearn for a little mano-a-mano on the mountain.

We’ll be in Vail all weekend to compete, party, and to test gear. See you out there on the slopes!

—The Winter Games run February 8 – 10, 2013. See more info on the events and concerts at the organization’s main page.

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