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Who's in the Vail Valley for Teva Mountain Games? There are kayakers walking through the village with play boats slung over a shoulder. Posses of mountain bikers wearing coordinating Lycra ride the streets. The slackliners lounge in denim cut-offs, and freeriders smile through dirt freckling arms and faces from the slopestyle course. Kids run amok, painted with temporary tattoos from Teva, weaving through more dogs than you'd find at Westminster. Pros and amateurs, locals and international travelers—they're all here.
We arrived yesterday, the second day of competition, in time for the slacklining qualifiers, an event in which competitors perform acrobatic tricks balanced on narrow webbing suspended above the ground. The sport is having a moment, thanks to Andy Lewis's appearance during Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show earlier this year. (And a documentary on Lewis from the Reel Rock Tour.) But Lewis is just one of the athletes wowing the Vail crowds. There's Mickey Wilson, who drew a roar with a double backflip dismount. And Alex Mason, a 14-year-old from El Cerrito, California, who beat Wilson for a spot in the quarterfinals on the strength of his consistency and technical tricks. Today, Mason competes against Lewis—the child prodigy taking on the sport's legend.
"I'm just going to do my best," Mason said yesterday. "I hope he gets sloppy drunk tonight." Tough talk from the tow-headed sprite, but Lewis was all smiles as the pair left the arena to rig a line over Gore Creek. "That's my arch enemy now," Lewis said, laughing. "It's a little bit frustrating because I didn't even get to start slacklining until four years past his age."
Call slacklining's Teva Games debut an instant success. "The crowd is the biggest one I've seen, it's awesome," said U.S. and world champion Mike Payton. "The comp is the best one we've had in the U.S. so far. I have some friends that live here and they're like, 'This is not Vail. Vail is five people walking down the street [in summer].' But during Teva Games, it's raging."
Yesterday's action capped off with the slopestyle event, where freeride bikers threw tricks on a course at the Golden Peak base area. Sam Pilgrim won first place and $3,000 with his first run, scoring a 93.6 with technical tricks on the course made up of dirt jumps, wooden ramps, a wall ride, and a step-up. "It was well good," said the Brit, flashing a smile with a missing front tooth. "The course is a little smaller than we're used to. It was more fun to ride because you're not as scared." Paul Basagoitia, who left last year's event on a backboard after under-rotating a double backflip, took second, and third place went to Josh Hult, a BMXer riding in his first mountain bike competition.
The freeriders treated the crowd to an impromptu best trick competition as the sunset blazed orange at the west end of the valley and a nearly full moon rose over mountains to the east. Garrett Robertson's 360 double tail whip earned him the $1,000 prize purse, and then the crowd spilled onto the course to celebrate with tunes from the DJ and a flashing light show. —Olivia Dwyer
Today's events include a half-marathon, bouldering, slacklining, a mud run, fly fishing, freeride dual slalom, and kayak freestyle. Check back tomorrow for our recap.