Sam Elias has been swinging ice axes and climbing in crampons all day. This is his 11th trip up a 50-foot face—a foam and plastic route equivalent to a 5.11 rock climb—in less than 10 hours. He clips in at the top to win the men’s mixed climbing event, then leans away from the wall and tips his head back to roar into the fat, wet flakes falling from the night sky. Elias turns to cheer his competitor, Stanislav Vrba, and the pair raise joined hands in a moment of shared accomplishment. “If he had beaten me I would be just as happy as I am now,” Elias says when he’s back on the ground.
Physical feats and friendly competition pervaded the weekend schedule at the first Winter Teva Mountain Games. Neighbors spent four hours chasing each other up, down, and around the vast expanse of Vail in the ski mountaineering race. With serious money at stake, top finishers crossed the line within seconds of each other. Telemark park skiers (yes, free heel park skiers) pushed their discipline to new feats in the big air contest: a 13-year-old landed a 720 and the first double rodeo was thrown in competition.
Elsewhere, mountain bikers sped and slipped over snow in the slalom, crit, and best trick events. And endurance freaks—pros and amateurs alike—in spandex randonnée suits ran uphill. Teva provided the bands, DJs, and parties to keep the good times going long after medals were handed out. —Olivia Dwyer
Video by Johnathan Greenham. See more from the Winter Teva Mountain Games in our daily coverage here.