Day two of the Winter Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colo., kicked off with a unique backcountry-oriented event, the Eddie Bauer Ski Mountaineering Race. GearJunkie editor Stephen Regenold clipped into rando boots and lightweight ski gear at 7:30am to toe the start line with 130 racers. What sprawled ahead was an up- and down-mountain course that’d take skiers on a rollercoaster trip including thousands of vertical feet and many hours spent skinning up and skiing fast down in and all around Vail mountain.
Regenold competed in the advanced division. His course started with a 3,000+ foot climb and took over an hour to ascend. From there, skiers removed skins and pointed tips downhill off the back of the mountain. Knee-deep powder for a couple thousand vertical feet led to a long traverse for miles across the backside of Vail beneath the resort’s giant south-facing bowls. Another huge skin uphill of 2,000+ feet, a hike down a rocky chute, a double-diamond mogul run in the resort, a boot-pack up a hill near the end, and, finally, a gated slalom course on an icy groomer for the last mile led to the end.
Average finish times were 4+ hours. Regenold nabbed a final time of 5 hours and 41 seconds, placing him in 13th out of 31 on the advanced course. “It was my first-ever ski mountaineering race,” he said. “Tougher and more epic than anticipated!”
The Ski Mountaineering race was event No. 2 in the weekend’s three-part Ultimate Mountain Challenge. Regenold and about 100 other Teva Games racers are vying for spots in the UMC by racing in a cross-county ski event (day one), the ski-mountaineering race (day two), and a grand finale “Vail Uphill” run (day three).
GearJunkie correspondent Sean McCoy rode in the Teva On-Snow Bike Crit, an intense 35-minute race that pitted cyclists against the elements and each other on a one-kilometer course at the base of Vail Mountain.
The Bike Crit start immediately saw racers blasting up a 170-foot climb to the top of the Gopher Hill lift on hard-packed snow. The course then traversed a steep, snowy hillside before entering an icy tunnel under a bridge. A sporty, twisting downhill on packed powder followed before crossing the start/finish line for each lap.
McCoy rode a Surly Moonlander fat-tire bicycle for the race. The bike performed well in the difficult conditions of the course, but the operator (McCoy) was a bit out of his element in his first-ever mountain bike race on snow. (McCoy took two glorious falls and finished in 18th place.)
“The Surly bicycle did things I did not know a bike could do,” he said. “The course was wild and really exciting. While my lungs were burning like mad for most of the race, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.”
Team Clif Bar racer Mitchell Hoke of Boulder, Colo., took the top of the podium, finishing 10 laps of the one-kilometer course in 35 minutes. Hoke, who finished 10th at the 2012 USC Cycling Cyclo-Cross Nationals in January, called the race fun and hard. “It was everything I had to make it up that climb,” said Hoke, who was riding an Alaskan-made fat bike from the company 970.
A handful of other events took place on Saturday at the Winter Teva Mountain Games, including snowshoe races, a bike slalom, dog events, and a big-air comp where telemark skiers and freeride mountain bikers jumped side-by-side off massive snow ramps. Teva reported that Christopher Ewart won the event with a double-cork 1080. The trick, performed after dark in front of a huge crowd, was accompanied by pyrotechnics, theatrical lighting, a screaming announcer, and the roar of thousands of Teva Games attendees bundled up in the chill air of Vail at night.
—Follow GearJunkie editors as they compete in and cover the “Ultimate Mountain Challenge” and other events this weekend. See more information on the Winter Teva Games at www.tevamountaingames.com.