Posted by: Ross Leonhart
The Winter Mountain Games made their much-anticipated return to Vail, Colorado, Feb. 25-27 with a variety of competitions, nightly concerts, gear town and more. It also marked the opening of registration for the 20th annual GoPro Mountain Games, returning June 7-12.
With hundreds of athletes in town for the Winter Mountain Games in February, there were some familiar faces from the GoPro Mountain Games.
“It’s just great to see them come back,” GoPro Mountain Games superstar Josiah Middaugh said of the Winter Mountain Games. “I’m really excited about that and just happy to participate.”
Middaugh, an Xterra world champion and overall stud, competed in the XC Snowshoe 10K, the Nature Valley Bootlegger Hill Climb and the Fat Tire Bike Race at the Winter Mountain Games.
Middaugh described the Bootlegger – an up-and-down race in ski or snowboard boots – as “good suffering.”
“Summer’s huge, but it’s so cool to see this come back and see everyone come out of the woodwork,” he said of the Winter Mountain Games. “There’s some phenomenal athlete here with the Skimo National Championships.”
It was a family affair for the Middaughs, as Josiah and his son Sullivan finished first and second in the 10K snowshoe race – with his son taking the top spot.
“I just love staying competitive and seeing where my limits are,” Josiah said of both the winter and summer Mountain Games competitions.
Kayak legends and power couple Emily Jackson and Nick Troutman were in town for the Winter Mountain Games. The two are familiar faces at the GoPro Mountain Games in the summer, usually standing on the podium after the kayak competitions.
“The Winter Mountain Games are epic,” Jackson, of Jackson Kayaks, said. “I can see Vail in all its glory, how everyone pictures it which is with snow all over these mountains.”
Jackson and Troutman competed together in the XC Snowshoe 5K and the Bootlegger at the Winter Mountain Games – despite being fish out of water on the snow.
“I’ve never been in snowshoes my entire life, so that was a first and it was different,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t believe that people actually ran in them.”
Jackson finished third in the female division of the 5K and took second in the Bootlegger race while Troutman finished first in the men’s 5K.
“This is a whole different world for me. It was amazing,” Troutman said. “I just love being in the mountains, so to experience the same place covered in snow and have that whole winter magic to it is pretty cool. To be here with my wife Emily and do a couple events, it was just fun to come out and do something different. I just love being in the mountains and love the Mountain Games. We’re ready for the Summer GoPro Mountain Games.”
Vail has become a “second home” to the couple.
“[The Winter Mountain Games] are very different, obviously, but it’s really cool to see groups of people super passionate about being outside and enjoying all of the amazing things Vail has to offer,” Jackson said. “For me, I’m stoked to be here. I hope to come back and bring the whole family next time.”
Jackson spent some time at the Winter Mountain Games kayaking in the Gore Creek that she dominates at the GoPro Mountain Games, drawing all sorts of looks as she walked through the village with her kayak in the middle of winter.
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“I really feel at home here in Vail,” she said.
Catch Middaugh, Jackson and Troutman at the GoPro Mountain Games, June 7-12.
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