I almost would have overlooked this destination had it not been for the 2013 GoPro Mountain Games. My brother and I love rock climbing, so as soon as I saw that there would be a Bouldering World Cup in Vail, we went crazy. The Games were the weekend after our stay in Denver, so my parents booked a hotel in Vail.
Known primarily for its ski slopes, Vail is a very small, Austrian-looking town. In the center of Vail are two shopping villages, plenty of restaurants, and beautiful hotels. Surrounding the center are ski lifts, snowy mountains, a gold mine, a bike trail, and a river. That’s skiing, snowboarding, rafting, tubing, shopping, dining, a gold mine and the great GoPro Mountain Games all in place.
Just keep in mind that this was in summer, and winter in Vail is completely different. With that being said, I probably would not return to Vail other than for the Games, since I’d rather learn to ski in a place I haven’t been to, like Lake Tahoe, CA.
We stayed at the Vail Marriott because of its discounted nights for GoPro Games athletes and spectators. It was around $120/night and it was worth every penny. From the minute we arrived, the staff was friendly and the service was top-notch. The valet men parked our car off site and then took our luggage inside. The woman who checked us in welcomed us and answered all of our questions about the games. She gave us a typed page of all the restaurants in Vail that offer discounts (50% off a meal, for example) during summer and we definitely took advantage of those discounts. Not that regular menu items were expensive, but there were great deals.
In addition to the restaurant deals, we took advantage of Vail’s free, intown bus. It was clean, safe, and convenient (there’s a stop right in front of the hotel entrance!). The bus picks up every 10 minutes and stops at both of Vail’s shopping villages: Vail Village and Lionshead Village. In Vail Village, we ate at Pepi’s Restaurant and Bar. The menu had a selection of Austrian dishes, but the four of us had the veggie burgers. That burger bursts with flavor. After lunch, we walked through the Lionshead Village. I loved the selection of stores; the North Face, Lululemon, Roxy/Quicksilver, Oakley, and Marmot were my favorites.
If the Mountain Games are in Vail again next year, I would go back to the Marriott and also make time to bike Gore Valley Trail or watch a movie at the CinéBistro, a fancy dinner theater that plays box office movies (Despicable Me 2, Fast and Furious 6, etc).
2013 GoPro Mountain Games
The GoPro games this year were from June 6-9, 2013. My brother and I began this perfect weekend by taking the intown bus to Golden Peak East for the Bouldering World Cup qualifiers. We were there for about four hours, while our parents fell asleep at the hotel. The next few days we did as much as possible at the GoPro Games.
Gear Town: An area full of tents offering demos, expos, and free swag from companies like GoPro, Thule, Vibram, Subaru, Eukanuba, Eddie Bauer, GoalZero, PrincetonTec, Garmin, Gerber, and Bear Naked granola).
Mountains of Music: Free concerts sponsored by Bud Light
Adventure Village: DockDogs competition, portable climbing wall for kids, mountain biking, mud run
Gibbon Slackline World Championships: We had a great time watching pro slackliners flip forwards and backwards, side to side. I recently bought a slackline and I love it, but man, it’s difficult.
FOMO Sonar App: This app updated you any time there was a chance to win a free kayak, a free SUP, or a free GoPro camera.
Other: Great non-profit organizations (my favorites were Mountain Child Adventure Travel and peopleforbikes.org), Mount Click photo competitions, citizen climbing, paraclimbing, an Eddie Bauer zip line, kayak pool, and a stand up paddleboard pool
• I recommend the intown bus for transportation around Vail for anyone 8 or older. It’s a great way for kids to go do their own thing.
• As I said, the GoPro Mountain Games are free, but it looks like it would be TONS of fun registering (usually $20) to participate in the mud run or citizen climbing.
• The only thing I don’t recommend you do in Vail (at least in summer) is ride Gondola One. $20 for one day ticket per person for the four of us meant $80 wasted, I hate to say. During the ride, you get an overhead view of Vail, but there is nothing open at the top.