Words by Jack Haworth

Just one year ago, our annual pilgrimage to Vail, Colo., for the GoPro Mountain Games was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. To ensure athletes, attendees and vendors stayed safe and healthy, the tough decision was made to cancel last year's event. Going into 2021, as vaccinations went up and cases went down, the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games was cleared to run with limited capacity and events. Then, with just five days until the kickoff, restrictions loosend up even further, and GPMG was cleared to run at FULL capacity—spectators, concerts and all.

Over the course of four beautiful days, the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games was filled with smiles, hugs, cheers and laughs. The consensus was clear—it was good to be back.

“It’s really nice to see everybody back out into the community again,” said Arielle Shipe, a GoPro influencer and yoga instructor (pictured above) who led over 100 yogis through a flow on Saturday morning. “As much as we’ve tried to replace or find ways to create community online, you just can’t quite replace in-person interactions.”

As eager athletes and fans poured into Colorado’s beautiful Vail Valley—a celebratory vibe filled the fresh mountain air. The weekend not only marked a celebration of incredible athletes, adorable pups and talented artists, but an appreciation for what those few days represented—a return to normalcy and much needed reunion of our collective outdoors family.

Dock dogs at GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colo.

The Games themselves were spectacular. Highlights included Emily Jackson racking up a trio of wins in kayak competition, and her brother Dane snagging the top spot in the Men’s GMC Kayak Freestyle. Endurance trail runner Joseph Gray picked up his seventh win in the Adidas Terrex 10K Spring Runoff, but he was later edged out by Morgan Elliott in the thrilling Junk Brands Pepi’s Face-Off. Colorado’s Russell Finsterwald and Alaska’s Ariel Tweto took victories in the Bosch eBike Challenge, while Keegan Swenson and Erin Huck reigned supreme in the human-powered TIAA Bank XC Mountain Bike race. And we’d be remiss not to mention the crowd-favorite, Orijen DockDogs competition, as high-flying canines prompted some of the loudest cheers of the weekend.

Though for most athletes, the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games wasn’t about winning or losing individual events. Instead, it was camaraderie that won the weekend, as athletes celebrated and reminisced with each other long after crossing the finish line.

Giveaway in the GoPro tent at GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colo.

L.L. Bean Gear Town was also in full swing as fans scored swag bags, sweet gear and even eBike demos at the Bosch booth. Other top outdoor brands in attendance included YETI, Oakley, Smartwool, Red Bull and, of course, GoPro! We held our signature 3 p.m. giveaways daily, slanging coveted items such as our latest flagship camera HERO9 Black and brand new lifestyle items, the Mezcal Sunglasses and Weekender Backpack.

Concert at GoPro Mountain Games with Bob Weir

For those of us that have longed for live music over the past year, the GoPro Mountain Games delivered. While both the Solaris Plaza and Lionshead stages featured several talented bands each day to get your groove going, the iconic Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater was absolutely rocking. On Thursday night, Yonder Mountain String Band played to sold-out house that was pulsing with bluegrass energy, only to be followed up by legendary performances on back-to-back nights from Bob Weir and the Wolf Bros. The founding member of the Grateful Dead was in prime form as the sold-out crowds sang and danced along, deep into the starry night.

Slacklining at GoPro Mountain Games

Those who weren’t able to make the trek out to Vail were treated to a daily live show from Outside TV, a first for the event, with several well-known guests including Selema Masekela, Pat Parnell, Chris Davenport and many more. While the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games was missing a few of the events or activities that are normally part of the weekend, organizers expect most events to return when the Games return to Vail on June 9-12, 2022.

A massive thank you to all of the athletes, vendors and fans for making the 2021 GoPro Mountain Games a beautiful weekend to remember. Stay safe, have fun, and we’ll see you next year in Vail.