2023 GoPro Mountain Games set the tone for summer in Vail

Posted by: Ross Leonhart

The GoPro Mountain Games are not so much about one competition, concert, demonstration or, believe it or not, the dogs – it is the sum of all parts that make it one of the world’s most celebrated outdoor festivals.  

Mother Nature once again blessed the GoPro Mountain Games with beautiful weather all four days, June 8-11, as the Mountain Games celebrated 21 years right here in Vail, Colorado. In 2023, early estimates from organizers show well over 4,000 athlete registrations across 30 competitions, ranging from 1-84 years old; over 80,000 spectator visits as of early Sunday afternoon – not including off-site events; over 100 world-class sponsor booths around town; and 333 volunteers from 22 states ranging in age from 13-88. And, a record 18 dogs were adopted at the Mountain Games through the events adoption program and partnership with Eagle County Animal Services. 

The event, which is owned and operated by the Vail Valley Foundation, featured more than 30 competitions, three nights of concerts at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and an electric atmosphere from Lionshead Village all the way to Golden Peak. The event, organizers say, showcases the wonders of the Vail community to both national and international audiences.  

“After an amazing winter season the GoPro Mountain Games have now set the tone for a great summer to come here in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation. “Celebrating 21 years in 2023, the GoPro Mountain Games are stronger than ever and are truly a celebration of all of the partners, sponsors, athletes, artists, musicians, volunteers and spectators who make this event one of the best all-around mountain experiences in the world. We are extremely grateful to the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, the U.S. Forest Service, and all our partners, sponsors, staff, and volunteers who make this event possible.” 

“The GoPro Mountain Games have become a celebratory tradition for people from all walks of life from all over the world.  The event has steadily built a world class reputation and has created a thriving community of like-minded amazing people who love to celebrate the outdoors.  Athletes, Art, Music & Mountains is what it’s all about,” said Dave Dressman, Event Director. “It was a fun week seeing Vail filled with people having fun and enjoying the Mountain Games, and we are already counting down to next year’s Mountain Games – June 6-9, 2024.” 


The GoPro Mountain Games bring some of the premiere athletes in the outdoor world to Vail. There are Olympic medalists, world champions and more amazing athletes across all of the sports that look forward to competing in Vail each year at the Mountain Games. Whitewater competitions enjoyed rowdy and fun waters with recent rainfall and a strong snow season. 

In the North American Cup Series, Olympic silver medalist climber Nathaniel Coleman gave it his best shot, but saw the next generation of climbers push him out of qualifying for the Finals, which saw huge crowds at the climbing wall at the base of Vail Mountain. The contrast of the mountain’s gondolas spinning over the weekend is a representation of everything Vail has to offer year-round. Mira Capicchioni, 18, of Bend, Oregon, won an exciting women’s competition, while Simon Hibbeler, of Minneapolis, climbed his way to the top of the men’s podium in a stacked field.  

Trickline competitions made their return in 2023 after a brief hiatus, with some of the top slackliners in the world competing in Solaris Plaza and also putting on demonstrations throughout the week. Competitors ranged from 17-year-old Arata Hosoe, of Japan, to Anthony Roumell, 40, from the San Diego area. Shin Kikukawa, of Japan, won the Mountain Games Trickline Championship this year, in front of a crowd who went wild with every flip, bounce and trick.  

In kayaking, Dane Jackson took first place in the TinCup Down River Kayak Sprint, followed by Nick Troutman and Tom Dolle, of France. On the women’s side, Adriene Levknecht finished first followed by Emily Jackson and Natalia Gray. In the Optimum Nutrition Kayak Freestyle, Dolle ended up topping Dane Jackson and Troutman; and Tula Zofia, of Poland, took the top spot over Emily Jackson and Abby Holcombe. In the GoPro Gore IV Kayak Challenge, Dane Jackson got the best of the field, followed by local Robert Prechtl, and Troutman rounded out the podium .01 seconds behind Prechtl. 

Some of the top runners in the country turned up for the adidas Terrex-sponsored running races. The 20K Trail Run sold out for the first time, with 75 racers taking to Vail Mountain for a scenic race. Janelle Lincks won the 10K Spring Runoff on Sunday morning, followed by Dani Moreno and Nicole Mericle; and then following the 10K, Lincks went out and barely edged Moreno to win Pepi’s Face-Off – taking runners up and down a black diamond ski trail.  

In the Disc Golf Tournament at Maloit Park in Minturn, Aaron Gossage, who placed 2nd at the 2022 PDGA World Championships, defended his Mountain Games title winning for the Pro Men’s division for the second year in a row, edging Jake Palmer, of Denver, by four strokes. On the amateur side, Walter Gilles – of the Vail Valley Foundation – took 1st place. In the Pro Women’s division, Erikah Weir, of Arvada, Colorado, topped the podium, and Stephanie Cole, of Leadville, Colorado, won the Amateur Women’s division. 

In rafting, longtime Mountain Game competitors Team El Chupacabra (Robert Prechtl, Jeremiah Williams) won the Pacifico Down River R2 Raft Sprint, while Team Raft Wannabees (Nick Troutman and Dane Jackson) won the Pacifico Raft Cross, followed by El Chupacabra in 2nd. 

GoPro Dual Slalom returned to the Minturn Bike Park, featuring side-by-side racing. Jill Kintner, out of Washington, went on a tear to claim victory, while Lawrence Ryder, of California, won the men’s pro division. In the Gates Kids Bike Race – everyone was a winner! In the Oakley XC Mountain Bike race, Howard Grotts, of Durango, Colorado, won the Pro/Open men’s division, and Boulder-based Erin Huck won the Pro/Open women’s division.  

Stand-up paddleboarders took to the fast-moving waters as well. Lance Ostrom won the GMC Down River SUP Sprint and Ashley Bean finished first in the women’s category. 

All yoga participants went home feeling like winners, with three sessions throughout the GoPro Mountain Games. 


NEW IN 2023 

The GoPro Mountain Games are in safe hands with the next generation of athletes coming through the ranks. An emphasis on “grom” categories this year saw an increase in youth competitors in many competitions, and set the stage for years to come. 

The new CoLab Creator Stage was a success in 2023, bringing together some of the best names in the outdoor and creator industries and enhancing the Mountain Games experience through engaging in-person entertainment and creative workshops, giving spectators and up-close-and-personal experience with some of their favorite social media stars, athletes & artists. Curated with the help of Wade Holland and Abby Wren (Wrenagade Media), the CoLab saw YouTube’s premiere guitar instructor Marty Music inviting members of the audience on stage to play with him; a live mural painting with Timmy Ham aka SLOTH; The Mirnavator encouraging others to shatter stereotypes in the mountains; Adam Glick showing how to cook in style while camping/in the outdoors; Mike and Anne with HoneyTrek offering 11 sustainability tips from their 11-year honeymoon; TikTok & Instagram famous Brodie that DOOD and Cliff Brush Jr.; The Handpan Man; and much, much more. 

The GoPro Mountain Games continue to develop and progress the event each and every year to keep it fresh and exciting for all who attend. 

New in 2023, the Orvis Species Slam sent fly-fishermen onto local waters to try and catch 7 different species of fish. Only one team was able to catch them all, Team Mericah – Jeremy Sides & Cody Burgdorf. In 2nd was Hudson Rozga and Charlie Stone – both 14 years old – who also caught the biggest fish of the day. 


The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (The Amp) kicked off its longest season yet in April, but the Mountains of Music series helped start the summer schedule packed with world-class entertainment.  

On Thursday of Mountain Games, The Motet got The Amp rocking opening for Brothers of a Feather featuring Chris & Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes. On Friday, three band members from Goose performed a stripped-down version of their shows known as Orebolo, with openers The Heavy Heavy. And rounding out the weekend on Saturday, Circles Around the Sun and Local Natives performed to a packed venue, including a lively lawn crowd.  

Free music throughout the weekend also captivated audiences, including Rocky Mountain Grateful Dead Revue and other regional bands.  

Music is a major part of the GoPro Mountain Games each year, and it was hard to take a step without hearing some live music somewhere.  


While almost everyone who attended the GoPro Mountain Games in 2023 surely had a memorable experience, whether competing, spectating or just taking it all in, local artist Amy Dose and Michelle Miller worked on a mural on the outside corridor of the Vail Parking Structure multiple days. The GoPro Mountain Games-inspired mural will serve as a reminder to all who come to Vail that this community offers more than world-class skiing and snowboarding in the winter.  


The GoPro Mountain Games continues its Protect Our Playground initiative in 2023, working closely with staff and volunteers from Walking Mountains Science Center, who go through every bag of trash from the event with their hands to ensure the most waste is diverted from the landfill as possible. Messaging around the venues also encouraged attendees to take advantage of water stations and other sustainability efforts.  

Staff, athletes and volunteers of the GoPro Mountain Games will be getting out for a Day of Service on June 24, partnering with Restore the Gore to plant native trees, shrubbery and plant life that plays a crucial role for regrowth along Gore Creek. 

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