The Down and Dirty Guide to the Mountain Games
Photo: John-Ryan Lockman

The Down and Dirty Guide to the Mountain Games

Posted by: Tom Boyd

Here’s how to successfully navigate the GoPro Mountain Games in three easy steps

Let’s face it: With 12+ disciplines and more than 30 events (plus multiple daily giveaways, free concerts, and more), attending the GoPro Mountain Games might feel a bit overwhelming. But never fear—even if this is your first of fifteenth time at the GoPro Mountain Games, we have a quick-and-easy guide to getting there and getting the most out of this event.

The Arrival

The beauty of the mountains are a big part of the Mountain Games: so before you hop in that car and drive, ask yourself: is there a way I can walk, bike, eBike, or carpool to this event?

Once you make that call, your arrival is one-and-done: Park that car or bike and you’re good for the day. All of the venues are within walking distance of each other; you can also take the free Vail bus.

If you’re driving, here’s how you park: When you exit the main Vail exit 176, you can park in either the Vail Village Parking Structure or Lionshead Parking Structure—both offer free parking all day.

Note: The Vail Village Parking Structure is big and blue and has several entries. It’s not the big stone building (Solaris) that also offers parking – that’s not free. Keep moving on to the Vail Village Structure and you’ll be golden.

If the parking lots are full (which may happen), no worries—park on the Frontage Road and walk in or, again, utilize the wonderful and oh-so-convenient Vail transit system. Or bring your bike or scooter or whatever you enjoy.

“You can ride the bus, you can walk your dog, you can ride a bike on the path, you can kayak down, you can ride a scooter, but we ask everyone does their best to find a low-emissions way to come on in and enjoy our beautiful mountains,” said Tom Boyd, director of PR for the non-profit Vail Valley Foundation, which hosts the event each year.

The Route

The GoPro Mountain Games are a big event that stretch from Vail Village to Lionshead (and include the Steep Creek Championships in Red Cliff on Thursday). The events, giveaways, tents, and festivities can be a lot to take in.

The DockDogs events at Go RVing DogTown in Lionshead are a big hit each year at the GoPro Mountain Games. We recommend starting – or ending – your daytime GoPro Mountain Games experience at this venue, then head to the free concerts at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Photo by Logan Robertson.

Your best bet? Go one end to the other, Boyd said. Start in Lionshead and check out Go RVing Dog Town (the DockDogs competition is a must-see), head to Arrabelle to peruse the sponsor tents and then walk into Vail Village to see the L.L.Bean Gear Town, moving east.

Or, start at Pedal Peak at Golden Peak, the center of this year’s bike activity, and at work your way west. A great way to get the day going is to swing by Wild Tonic Zen Zone for some yoga in the morning.

No matter what side you start on, you can make your way to the other end throughout the day and check out the Pacifico Food & Beer Garden, Nature Valley Mountain Plaza, and L.L.Bean Gear Town (a fan favorite for all its giveaways and sponsor activations).

The Plan

For those of you who prefer to live footloose and plan-free, don’t worry—a plan is not required. However, for those who want to ensure that they make it to DockDogs, the intro to slackline class at Solaris in L.L.Bean Gear Town, and the IFSC World Climbing Cup at Mountain Plaza before heading to the Ford Amphitheater for a free concert… well, that’s a lot to take in and a plan is helpful.

The kayak hole at the center of L.L.Bean Gear Town is often referred to as the “I-bridge” or “International Bridge” where spectators gather to watch the best kayakers in the world. This is the heart of the GoPro Mountain Games action during the GMC Freestyle Kayak competition. Photo by Logan Robertson.

“Just like our mountains, the Mountain Games are a wild, free-ranging thing,” Boyd said. “You can range all over town and just go with the flow, or you can pick and choose from a huge smorgasbord of events as you travel through town.”

At the end of the day? Easy – at 6:15 p.m. or so, head to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater for three nights of FREE concerts as part of the GoPro Mountains of Music June 4, 5, and 6.

One more show!

Then, stick around for the Michael Franti & Spearhead show at The Amp Sunday night, a co-production of the Vail Valley Foundation and AEG Presents. Tickets start at $49.95.

The Map

So … how do you find out where all those events are happening? Check out the map.

“We’ve got an awesome interactive map,” Boyd said. “It’s cell phone-friendly, it’s tablet-friendly, it’s laptop-friendly… it’s just friendly all around. It’s a key component to your navigational success at the GoPro Mountain Games.”

Not only will the map give information about events and share where the cerveza tent is located, but it will give the location for essentials, like water and sunscreen.

Because that’s the other part of “the plan”: Be prepared. Vail is subject to mountain weather which means that it could snow, rain, hail and be a beautiful bluebird day, all within a two-hour window. Apply sunscreen often; drink lots of water (dehydration is a real thing) and bring layers so that you’re comfortable.

Dogs are a big part of the GoPro Mountain Games – but be extra sure your dog has the right demeanor for crowds and all the busy Mountain Games action. Keeping dogs cool and hydrated is a must! Photo by Rick Lohre.

About the dog… The Mountain Games are a dog-friendly event, but not all dogs are friendly. Before you bring your dog, cat, iguana, pot-bellied pig or parakeet, make sure that they enjoy being in crowds, can handle being on a leash all day, and that you’re prepared for the heat and chaos. If they’re cool with it, so are we.

So that’s it: Get to Vail, get to your starting point and get going. It’s going to be an amazing weekend.

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