Ice Axes to Explosions: ‘Mountain Games’ were weekend of Crazy Fun

“Day two of the Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer started in a snowstorm and ended in flames.” That was the lead in a press release put out by the organizers of this wild, weekend-long event held twice a year in Vail, Colo.

We just got back, and once again the Mountain Games proved to be a highlight of the winter. After three days of athletic competition, live concerts, film showings, and gear demos on-slope it all wrapped up on Sunday night.

Great balls of fire! Hucking a bike off a giant ramp of snow on Vail Mountain

With events like the Games’ famous Telemark Big Air, artificial “ice” climbing, an uphill snow sprint run, and the whacky, spectator-friendly Downhill Snow Bike Slalom, the Games bring together some unique niche sports seen likely no where else.

GearJunkie contributing editor Sean McCoy spent three days competing in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, a test of endurance that includes a 10-kilometer Nordic Sprint, a marathon-length Ski Mountaineering race, and a 2,000-vertical-foot running race up the front face of Vail Mountain.

Sam Elias (in white/gray) defeats Scott Adamson in the finals of the mixed climbing championship

A participant-oriented sporting showcase, thousands of people from Colorado and across the United States lined up to test mettle against elite athletes and fellow average-Joes.

Big air during the daytime, too

McCoy finished in sixth place in his division. He noted the event gave him “a unique look into the incredible athleticism of the elite competitors while testing the many pieces of equipment that made the race possible.”

Expect updates this week with details from McCoy’s race-heavy weekend, gear reviews, and other stories from our coverage at the Games.

—GearJunkie editor Stephen Regenold wrote on his experience in the Games’ ski-mountaineering race last year in the article “Big Ups, Big Downs: Welcome to the Sport of ‘SkiMo’.”

Sean McCoy after some aerobic output on an uphill sprint running race

XC ski race start line (above) and finish area (below)

More explosions, more big air

Concerts every night

SkiMo racers heading uphill fast

Downhill snow biking racecourse. Photo credit: Zach Mahone

Snow bikers race head to head. Photo credit: Zach Mahone

Tiny holds and sharp points on ice climbing wall

‘Ultimate Mountain Challenge’ winners

XC snow-bike race

Slacklining demo area

Free ski tuneups in the Eddie Bauer Tent

Vertical art: Climbing towers in Vail Village

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.