ICY HOT: Teva serves up fresh adrenaline with its inaugural Winter Mountain Games
If there could be a downside to hundreds of the world’s fittest athletes descending upon Vail for the inaugural Winter Teva Mountain Games, it would be that their sculpted muscles won’t be as exposed as their summer counterparts’.
Still, for four days in February, the place will be humming with the intense pulse that comes only from humans pushing their bodies to maximum exertion. The winter games are set to showcase extreme athletes pursuing even further extremes in events that tweak and amplify some familiar sports. Backcountry skiers will race up instead of down Vail Mountain; hucksters will launch big-air tricks on bikes and tele skis instead of snowboards and alpine gear; and climbers will scale walls of both rock and ice. Even dogs will get into the act with an avalanche search-and-rescue competition—hopefully simulated.
“Nobody does this in North America,” says Mike Imhof, one of the winter games’ masterminds. “In the United States, it’s something you simply don’t see. It’s going to be one big ‘wow’ factor.”
If that’s not enough of a dog and pony show, then step into the driver’s seat yourself, as Teva is inviting amateur athletes and regular Joes to get into the games.
Test your mettle in the Seven Wonders of Vail, which challenges participants to ski or ride all seven of Vail Mountain’s bowls in one day, or don a disguise for the Boot Run, which pits costume-clad racers against one another as they maneuver through an obstacle course in ski boots.
Teva is offering a $60,000 prize purse for the event, just to make it interesting. Make that more interesting.
The soon-to-be-iconic competition of winter adrenaline pursuits, live music, gear expos, and film contests all goes down February 9–12.
REPRISE PARTY: Vail’s piano man plays on in Arrowhead
For decades, Micky Poage hammered out spirited melodies on a piano at a creekside setting behind floor-to-ceiling windows for all to see. His music—brilliant medleys, classical concertos, original compositions, and improvisational licks, all played out with effortless grace—developed a loyal following, becoming almost as much a part of the fabric of Vail as the mountains that inspired it. A classically trained, professional pianist since he was 14, Poage tickled the ivories nearly every night for thirty-five years at the Lodge at Vail. But the lights dimmed on that prolific run when, earlier this year, the Lodge decided to replace its aging restaurant, Wildflower, with a new, hip steak house, expanding into the loft space that Poage had inhabited. (For more on the steak house, see page 28.) It might have marked the end of an era for the Vail Valley, but the Lodge also gifted Poage its grand piano. And then fate stepped in—on the golf course, as so often happens in business.
Poage found himself knocking balls around with Pentti Tofferi, the general manager of the Arrowhead Club. Tofferi, a fan of his music, suggested that the piano man bring his shiny grand to life again at Vista at Arrowhead to entertain one of the region’s most discerning dinner crowds. “At this point in my life, this place is perfect,” says Poage, without missing a keystroke in his new home at Vista, the culinary heart of the Country Club of the Rockies. “I never thought I’d play anywhere but Micky’s, but I’m really comfortable here.” The harmonious arrangement seems to be working for everyone involved. “The energy is like a swarm of bees when Micky is playing,” says Vista owner Janine Glennon. “And there is more conversing between tables than ever before.” The hits keep coming: Poage debuts a new album in December. This winter season, those in the mood for a melody can find him every night but Sunday at Vista at Arrowhead, starting at 6 p.m.
EPIC SCRAPBOOK: New EpicMix pics epitomize the Facebook generation
It’s tempting to permanently capture the scene of rocketing down Vail’s Back Bowls in a white poof on a powder day, but whipping out a camera during such times kills the moment—and often the photo. Not to worry: Vail Resorts has got your back. The new EpicMix Photo at Vail and Beaver Creek guarantees that there’s somebody zooming in already.
When the EpicMix program launched last year, it allowed skiers who took advantage of the free account to track the mountains they skied and their vertical feet, as well as to receive pins for various accomplishments. This year, EpicMix adds to its bag of features as Vail Resorts phases out Sharpshooters, the company previously responsible for on-mountain photography.
Here’s how it happened: VR set out to discover what’s most important—beyond the experience itself—to its mountains’ visitors. The answer? Preserving the memories of the moments, says Vail Resorts’ director of interactive marketing, Mike Slone. “With our contract with Sharpshooters expiring,” he explains, “it created an opportunity to re-envision what the photo experience on our mountains would look like—and to marry it up with EpicMix.”
Here’s how it works: Like Sharpshooters, paper lift tickets will be a thing of the past at Vail and Beaver Creek this winter. Season passes and day tickets will come in the form of a hard card that can be scanned by EpicMix photographers—twenty to twenty-five of whom will be positioned all over Vail and Beaver Creek mountains. Their photos will be delivered for free to the skier/rider’s EpicMix account. From there, only that individual can see the photos unless he or she decides to share them on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or some other social media, or they can purchase a hi-res version for $19.95. “It’s a game-changer in the travel industry,” Slone says. And so it might be. This could be the first season ever that someone on Chair 4 captures your 180 off the Hollywood Cliffs—or that your accidental cartwheel in Blue Sky Basin gets the exposure it deserves.
Vail Village has drafted one of Denver’s favorite eateries. Football great John Elway is bringing his namesake restaurant to the Lodge at Vail this winter, now that the Wildflower has closed its doors. Racks of Colorado lamb, hand-cut aged USDA steaks, and fresh seafood will be on offer at the restaurant named “Best Steakhouse” by both 5280 magazine and Westword newspaper. A visit from the former Broncos quarterback himself may also be on the menu at the new Elway’s, as he’s hinted that he and his partners look forward to “seeing so many of our Denver guests” in Vail. Score!
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
This winter, polar bears are on the prowl in Vail, and kids and their adults are invited to join the bear hunt—just follow the huge paw prints that lead to the bears lurking throughout the village. But fear not: the eight bears and lone cub aren’t real. They’re life-size snow sculptures built by local artist and architect Karl Krueger, part of the Triumph Winterfest put on by the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places Program.
“There’s a real double-take moment when people look at a bear and don’t know if it’s real,” says Krueger, son of the late Celine Krueger, a beloved local artist. “The first thing a kid does is touch its nose and pull on its ear; they’re surprised it’s cold. This is art made to touch and even climb on—to have fun with.”
Krueger’s bears first invaded town last year during Winterfest, which has a five-year history of challenging the senses with larger-than-life artworks carved in ice, including huge blades of grass, seashells, and even eight-foot human ears. Last year, a few polar bears had starring roles in Krueger’s piece Arctic, and they so delighted Vail visitors that this year they’re back, bringing their friends for an Arctic Wandering adventure.
The artist begins his creations with sketches and small clay models based on bear photographs, then crafts individualized plywood frames for each bear’s pose. He calls it “a building shaped like a bear”—strong enough to support up to 700 pounds of snow weight. Then he mounds snow onto the frames and finishes the sculptures by hand.
The bears begin showing up in Vail December 23, with a celebration of Winterfest taking place the evening of January 13 along the Gore Creek Promenade. Krueger, for one, can’t wait. “There’s this spark that happens when you see this wild bear in an urban setting,” he says. “Especially when it’s stepping onto the pavement toward you.”