Event descriptions 101

There are few events in the world that showcase as many outdoor athletic skills – or chiseled arms and legs – as the GoPro Mountain Games. From two wheels to casting lines, slacklines to playboats, paddles to handholds, the gear is colorful and the competition intense. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.  


Since their inception, the GoPro Mountain Games have been rooted in paddle sports. Beginning with kayaking, expanding to rafting and most recently evolving into stand-up paddling or SUP, whitewater competition continues to draw the crowds and top athletes to Gore and Homestake creeks for freestyle, downriver and cross events.


 Coors Light Steep Creek Championship — Tumbling nearly 500 nerve-wrenching feet per mile, Homestake Creek outside the rugged mining town of Red Cliff provides the perfect backdrop to test the world’s best kayakers as they ride the mountainside tide fueling this adrenaline-powered race. Race rules are the only easy part of the 1/4-mile Class V challenge: Top 10 men and women advance to the finals and the fastest combined time after two runs takes the top prize of $2,000.

Coors Light Down River Kayak Sprint — Endurance and technique play equal parts in this 4-mile lactic acid flush down Gore Creek. A rally-race format on Class II-III snowmelt whitewater pits competitors against the clock in timed intervals as they make their way from East Vail to the Covered Bridge finish line in Vail Village. *Part of the Kyocera Ultimate Mountain Challenge and TUDOR Ultimate River Challenge.

 Coors Light Kayak Freestyle presented by Eddie Bauer — The Vail Whitewater Park is center stage for this marquee event that features the world’s top kayakers in an old-fashioned, new school throw-down. With spring runoff at its peak, playboat paddlers pull out all the stops for a one-minute surf session that combines aquatic artistry with aerial acrobatics on a taylor-made standing wave. Each kayaker is judged on two rides, and the top five combined scores advance to the finals on Saturday, where the best score of three rides decides the champ.

Coors Light 8 Ball Kayak — In this whitewater version of a demolition derby, boats double as battering rams in a carnage-infused race through Vail Village. As many as 10 kayakers paddle head-to-head in a 300-yard sprint down Gore Creek while “8-Ball” kayakers lurking in the eddies attempt to take them out. Think full-contact kayaking, where rubbin’ (and ramming) is racin’.


SUP Surf Sprint — The stand-up version of the 4-mile downriver race against the clock pushes paddlers to the limit from East Vail to Vail Village. Competitors must stand strong on the Class II-III rapids of Gore Creek as low bridges, cascading drops and wave trains add to the elevated endurance challenge in the shadows of the Gore Range.*Part of the TUDOR Ultimate River Challenge.

SUP Surf Cross — Heats of up to four surfers face off in this  stand-up paddle battle royale on Gore Creek. The 300-yard sprint from the Covered Bridge to the International Bridge challenges paddlers to keep their feet through collisions and on-course obstacles, both natural and manmade. First boarder to complete the course and cross the finish line wins.


Raft Cross — Clean lines are hard to find when three inflatable rafts carrying two paddlers apiece are all crashing down Gore Creek in this head-to-head race. The 300-yard course between Vail’s Covered Bridge and International Bridge includes two upstream gates for rafters to attain even as they’re being rammed by other boats. No style points for swimming.

Down River R2 Raft Sprint — This raft race against the clock is the same format as the Down River Kayak and SUP Sprints on the 4-mile Gore Creek course from East Vail to the Covered Bridge in Vail Village. Fastest two-person team across the finish line wins. *Part of the Ultimate River Challenge. 

TUDOR Ultimate River Challenge

Looking for the ultimate way to spend your Saturday? The top overall waterman and waterwoman at the Mountain Games are decided in a combined competition featuring all the three paddling watercraft: Kayak, SUP and Raft. The paddlers with the fastest times in the Coors Light Down River Kayak Sprint, Down River SUP Sprint, and Down River R2 Raft Sprint — held back-to-back-to-back on Gore Creek — claim the crowns of Ultimate River Man and Woman at the GoPro Mountain Games (along with a boatload of cash and a TUDOR Pelagros Watch).


GoPro Mountain Games Enduro - Showcasing Eagle’s flourishing singletrack bouquet, the first ever GoPro Mountain Games Enduro combines several winding uphill and timed downhill segments. The tough part is that nobody knows the course until the last minute and riders, in addition to enlisting the power of their lungs, legs as well as fearless descending capabilities, must tap into their endurance stores over and over again.

X-Country Mountain bike – Historically bringing in both big-time pro racers as well as local badasses and up-and-comers, the up and down natural alpine course will feature some fresh terrain this year, including a new start in Lionshead. Get ready to hammer up rocky switchbacks and bomb down steep, aspen-filled corridors on Vail Mountain.

Volvo Road Bike Time Trial – Used for the legendary Coors Classic and also for the USA Pro Challenge, there’s a lot of history in this paved course that launches cyclists individually off of a ramp in Vail Village through East Vail and up Vail Pass. Routinely featuring a smattering of Tour de France stars as well as local and regional skinny tire enthusiasts, it’s just you against the clock in this lung-busting uphill race.


Volvo Mountain Mud Run – Remember how fun it was to splash through mud as a toddler and take the occasional face plant in a giant puddle? Steering clear of potential snorkler, Jess “the mud stud” Manning, here’s your chance to relive your dirty glory. New this year, there are two waves of runners, the first designed for sludge-seeking kids and families and the second geared toward competitors who like to get their heart rates up in the gook. Costumes encouraged.

Superfeet Trail 10K-ish – By “ish” we don’t mean that the course actually measures 15K, but be prepared for a long 10K with lots of climbing and roots and rocks to jump over, plus Gore Range views that will take your breath away if the elevation doesn’t do it first. It’s one of the most challenging (as even the pros will attest) and spectacular 10Ks ever.

EverBank Half Marathon

Pacing yourself is crucial in this 13.7-mile race that starts in Golden Peak and spaces out the crowd quickly as the course meanders slightly uphill through the valley and then steeply on the bike path to Shrine Pass for nearly 3,000 feet of climbing from point to point. Let the blooming wildflowers and fresh pine smells inspire you.

SuperFeet Apres 5K

If you’d prefer to keep your costume clean (but aren’t afraid to get it a little sweaty) and want to feel like you did your body justice by taking on a slice of the Mountain Games in addition to the pizza, beer and bbq you’re consuming while watching other events, this is your chance. It’s no piece-of-cake course, but it’s not a slog straight up the mountain either.

Rocky Dog Trail Run presented by The Secret Life of Pets

You stand a much better chance of getting out on the trail if Fido gets to run by your side … or can serve as a tug boat on the uphills. There’s a 5K-course that takes two and four-legged competitors up and around Vail Mountain and a more relaxed one-mile course for  walkers and those with shorter legs.


IFSC Climbing World Cup presented by Chipotle

Watching the world’s top climbers scale a massive wall full of impossible-looking ledges with tiny nub foot and handholds is more entertaining than a 3-D Star Wars screening. Honestly, it’s hypnotic and the only time you’ll ever catch this level of talent in the United States.

Climbing Competitions

Just as hypnotizing because this crowd of citizens, youth and paraclimbers show with sweat and sometimes tears just how tough these routes up the wall really are, this competition blends gymnastics, strength and precise decision-making. The moves –especially by the paraclimbers who are negotiating one problem to the next with a prosthetic limb – are jaw-dropping. 


Outdoor Big Air — The unbridled enthusiasm of man’s best friend will be on full display from roughly six feet in the air as dogs fly after their favorite toys tossed into a splash pool at the base of Golden Peak. Dogs sprint down the dock and dive in this fan favorite. The canine with the longest measured distance wins.

Extreme Vertical — If Big Air is the long jump of dog competition, Extreme Vertical is the high jump. A bumper is suspended 10 feet above the water and the pup sprints down the dock, soaring off the end in an effort to grab the toy. The dog with the highest measured jump is the winner.

 Speed Retrieve — The fastest pup to retrieve the toy duck from the far end of the pool is the winner of this dog paddle-only race. The clock starts when the dog hits the water and stops when the bird is returned to master.


Costa 2 Fly X-Stream — Precision casting is put on display in the preliminary rounds of Colorado’s largest fly fishing competition. The top 20 men and five women who score highest in the combined distance and accuracy casting qualifiers must add nerves to the mix when they move to the big stage and attempt to drop their fly into riverside targets from Vail’s International Bridge as they vie for the opportunity to fish in the finals. The eight men and two women posting the top qualifying scores get to hop in a raft and cast to actual trout during a timed float trip on an undisclosed stretch of river. The angler who racks up the highest score based on number and length of fish landed wins the grand prize. More cash is awarded for the single biggest fish of the day. But here’s the real catch: Of all the fishing flies in the world, anglers only get to choose two patterns with a maximum of six flies.


It’s the question every GoPro Mountain Games participant most likely asked him- or herself long before ever arriving to compete in Vail … Just how do I become a professional slacker? Top pros from around the globe take to the slackline for a head-to-head battle in this extreme trickline competition. Prepare to be amazed by balance, control and acrobatics as these dynamic athletes toe the edge of insanity for the judges. Randomly paired competitors have two 90-second sessions each to post their top score based on trick variety, trick difficulty, trick combos, amplitude and style. Highest score advances to the next round. Wanna give it a shot? An interactive slackline area will be set up for everyone to try throughout the weekend.


Vibram Mountain Masters Disc Golf

Sold out solid within 36 hours, you could say disc golf shares a similar level of popularity as cold beer in the summertime. Similar to regular golf but using an arm instead of a club and a disc rather than a ball, players negotiate a tricky nine-hole course with added challenges, sinking each disc with the fewest possible throws. Two tough qualifying contests slim the field down to the true top 50 for the final round.

Flashflight Disc Nite

Resembling mini UFOs, there is something unmistakably cosmic about colorful, LED-illuminated discs and dog toys flying through the air. This round of golf by night is non-competitive and open to everyone.