VAIL — The inaugural weekend of the Winter Teva Mountain Games is over, and athletes and spectators alike hope the past few days are just a teaser of what’s to come next year and beyond.
The sports and events over the weekend ran the gamut of winter sports. There was telemark big-air skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoe racing, an uphill run, ski mountaineering, mixed ice and rock climbing and even mountain biking on snow.
And there was money — about $60,000 total — given away to the best athletes. The crowds grew from just tens of people at the Nordic skiing event Friday morning to a couple hundred people at Friday night’s mixed-climbing event to more than 1,000 people at Saturday night’s big-air and best trick bike events. It energized Vail during a time when the town might not have necessarily needed that extra energy — the slopes and hotels are typically crowded this time of year anyway — but it added that extra something for those visiting.
On paper, the audacious plans for the first Winter Teva Mountain Games seemed tenuous. An unlikely marrying of ice climbing, winter mountain biking, snowshoeing, nordic skiing, ski mountaineering and big air tricks, the slate of events swirling around Vail’s pocket-sized Gold Peak was a shotgun blast targeting just about every winter sport that isn’t mainstream.
"You always wonder going into a first-time deal how much traction it has and if people are going to embrace it. You are always a little nervous, but I think everybody is feeling pretty good for how the first-year effort went off," said John Dakin of the Vail Valley Foundation, which bought the Teva Mountain Games in 2007 from Heath. "For a first-time event, I don’t know that it could have gone much better."
As the mountain hosted one of its busier days of the season Saturday, the events at Gold Peak drew passers-by and dedicated spectators. The mingling of Lycra-wrapped athletes, bike-pushing kids in jeans and accented, fur-clad vacationers was a rarity for Vail and the Teva Mountain Games.
Heath first began planning a winter event in 2005, but when it came time for action, the economy was wilting and sponsors were reticent to test a new model.
The Vail Valley Foundation revived plans for the winter games with ice climbing, biking and telemark skiing already enjoyed by many Vail Valley locals. The evolution of the summer Teva games is the model for winter’s growth.
"The seed has been planted, and this will now grow organically," Dakin said.
While no decisions have been made for next year, it’s likely that the bikes will remain a focal point. And keeping that everyone-can-play vibe will definitely remain, said Dakin and Heath.
The Teva Mountain Games have long occupied the gray area between athlete-centric action sports and participatory sports, and that will continue in the winter show. The winter games will showcase up-and-coming athletes pioneering new realms and open the starting line to aspirants willing to challenge those athletes.
"With Teva, we are always about creating platforms for athletes to shine, and that was accomplished this weekend," Heath said.
A BMX rider won the Best Bike Trick contest on a borrowed mtn bike 😆
Chad Kagy, an extremely talented BMX park rider, won Best Bike Trick at his first outing at a mountain bike competition during the Winter Teva Mountain Games. The 13 time x-games medalist earned the top spot on the podium, and pocket $5,000, after landing a back flip tail whip in the snow off a 70 foot jump. Prior to the competition he had ridden a mountain bike less than a dozen times. Cam McCaul, a famous freerider in his own right, lured Kagy into the competition by offering him a mountain bike if he participated in the contest.