Here’s why you should attend the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, from June 9 through 12: Vail is a sweet place to visit in June—even if you don’t feel like signing up for a grueling half marathon up Vail Pass or a wobbly SUP-sprint down Gore Creek, or watching some of the best outdoor pros climb, bike, run, and paddle their way through town. There’s plenty of music, art, and food to take in over the course of the action-packed four-day event. Here’s how to make the most of your Rocky Mountain visit and catch the best of the Mountain Games, now in its fifteenth year.
When to Go
The event runs Thursday through Sunday, with the most densely packed schedule over the weekend. If you want a more low-key scene, show up for Thursday and Friday and skip the thousands of fans who converge over the weekend—a mix of Denver weekend warriors and an international field of athletes chasing the $100,000 in prize money awarded during the event. If you’re looking for a party, Friday and Saturday nights in the Vail Village will be bustling with late-night DJs and reggae shows.
Where to Stay
Mountain Games’ VIPs stay at the Sonnenalp Hotel, in the heart of Vail Village, which has luxury bedding and heated marble bathroom floors. But rooms fill up quickly there. This year, the event is expanding to Vail’s Lionshead base, so hotels there—like the Antlers, the Marriott, the Four Seasons, or the Wren—are now in a great location for spectating. If you can’t find a spot in town, check out hotels in nearby Avon, Beaver Creek, or Eagle, a 10- to 30-minute drive away. Want to camp? Grab a designated campsite along the road to Piney River Ranch north of Vail or in the Homestake Reservoir area. Wherever you stay, parking at the event itself is free.
New this year is the Mountain Games’ first mountain bike Enduro race, taking place Friday, June 10 in Eagle, which is 30 minutes west of Vail on I-70. The course map won’t be available until the day before the event, but to watch, start in Eagle’s Town Park and walk along sections of the course. In Vail Village, the best spectating is at the International Bridge, the epicenter of the Mountain Games, to see the kayak freestyle final, plus SUP-cross and other carnage-inducing paddle sports. And don’t miss the DockDogs events, at Golden Peak, where well-trained hounds leap a shockingly far distance into a body of water, a total crowd favorite.
This isn’t just a spectator event. Get in on the action by signing up for some races yourself. Mountain bikers of all levels can test their lung capacity in the Everbank Cross Country Mountain Bike race up Vail Mountain. Seasoned runners will enjoy the half marathon or trail 10K, or new this year, there’s a mellow 5K. Or do it all in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge—a four-part crusher with pro and amateur divisions that combines mountain biking, trail running, road biking, and downriver paddling. You can sign up solo or as a team.
Where to Eat
Chipotle will dole out burritos throughout the event, but for a taste of local fare, stop into Joe’s Famous Deli for a huevos rancheros breakfast burrito or a Cubano, or grab a table on the shores of Gore Creek, with perfect viewing of the whitewater events, at Up the Creek for a burger or steak banh mi. If you completed the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, you totally deserve a ball of cookie dough—dubbed cookie tartare—at the French Deli in Lionshead.
What Else to Do While You’re There
In addition to all the sporting revelry, the Mountain Games also has live concerts, photo contests, film screenings, and enough other events to keep even the non-outdoorsy person entertained. Or ditch the crowds and enjoy the rest of what Vail has to offer. The trails and rivers away from the village can feel empty this time of year. You can get gnarly in the class V drops in Gore Canyon on the Colorado River, which is gushing with snowmelt right now, or take a leisurely float through red rock desert landscape on the class II rapids downstream. Or head out on the seven-mile roundtrip hike to Deluge Lake for a 2,500-vertical-foot climb through boulder fields and with panoramic views of 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross.