‘Outside’ Takes on the Teva Mountain Games


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Photo: Nick Davidson

This past weekend, we sent a good chunk of our staff up to Vail to cover and compete in the Teva Mountain Games. For those of you not familiar with the event, over the past 11 years it’s evolved into a bona fide festival: athletes from around the world compete in 24 different races over the course of four days. But that’s just part of it. Nearly every event, from bouldering to mountain biking to fly-fishing, also has recreational divisions. And then there’s everything else, from free concerts and film series to slacklining and SUP demonstrations to mud runs and the always-popular dogs-jumping-into-water events.

The resulting mash-up of athletes and revelers makes for a pretty fun mix: you’ve got guys like pro cyclist Tom Danielson, who decided at the last minute to show up and smoke the competition in the road bike time trail, clomping around in their spandex kit and tear-dropped aero helmet. But you’ve also got visor-wearing fly fisherman; superfit moms and dads pulling bike-trailers filled with kids; and just about everybody in-between. And dogs—lots and lots of dogs, everywhere.

During the run up to the event, we sat down with Josiah Middaugh, the 33-year-old triathlete from Vail who this year paddled, ran, and biked his way to his sixth ultimate mountain challenge title. We also chatted with Olympic slalom kayaker Mike Dawson, who won his third Steep Creek title. Low water this year made for an even more technical race than usual—there was literally no room for error on the quarter-mile, class V course outside of Red Cliff.

We also caught up with mountain biker Heather Irmiger, who finished third on Saturday’s mountain bike event. If she keeps up her current run of top finishes, the 33-year-old Boulder, Colorado, native has a good shot of making this year’s Olympic team. Finally, we tracked down slackliner Andy Lewis, who earned his five minutes of fame slack-lining alongside a dancing Madonna at last year’s Super Bowl halftime show. The frizzy-haired, foul-mouthed Lewis won best trick at the Game’s first-ever slackline competition, which the Vail Daily’s Stephen Kasica described as “the lovechild of Olympic trampoline and power tumbling, who grew up listening to alternative rock.”

At the event, we focused more on having fun and competing. Six co-workers and I all entered events, including four of us who competed in the co-ed, amateur division of the ultimate mountain challenge, a four-race event that includes a down-river kayak sprint, a mountain bike race, a 10k run, and, finally, a road-bike time trail up Vail Pass. I started it off Saturday a.m. with the downriver sprint leg, a four-mile race down a class II section of Gore Creek. The nice folks at Dagger loaned me a big, fast creek boat, and I thought I smoked it, but the clock disagreed. I placed fourth, which sounds impressive until I tell you that there were only six teams in our division. And as hard as my teammates rallied over the course of the next three races, we couldn’t move up onto the podium.

But that’s OK: we’re owning 4th place. Plus, we were the only magazine that even fielded a team (hear that, Backpacker?). And as my teammate and senior editor Abe Streep pointed out, the three teams that beat us would go down hard in an editing contest. For my part, I’m just happy we beat a team named Muffin Tops. Fastest magazine team, faster than Muffin Tops. That’s my story.

—Sam Moulton