2016 GoPro Mountain Games celebrates 15th year in gigantic style.

Colorado’s beautiful Vail Valley transformed itself from a luxurious wintertime ski destination and into a world-class adventure sports epicenter for the 2016 GoPro Mountain Games competition this past weekend.

The already big event expanded territory in 2016 with new events happening in Vail’s Lionshead area, downvalley in the Town of Eagle, yoga on the lower bench of Ford Park and a free Bonfire DUB and Stephen Marley concert at Vail’s Gerald R Ford Amphitheater.

“No matter how you look at it – participation, enthusiasm, spectators, sponsor activations, music and just overall vibe ­– this year’s GoPro Mountain Games exceeded even our most optimistic expectations,” said Dave Dressman, co-director of the event.

Vail began hosting the Mountain Games since 2005 – combining forces with action camera maker GoPro in 2009 – to bring together the country’s best professional and amateur adventure athletes to compete in over 25 different mountain sports. This year, more than 60,000 spectators came to watch 2,500 athletes compete in a range of games from whitewater kayaking to K-9 competitions, all for more than $100k in prize money.

Vail Valley Foundation President and CEO Mike Imhof said he was extremely pleased with the incredible turnout and overall smooth operations of the event.

“It’s been a spectacular four days of competition, art, expos, and overall enjoyment,” Imhof said. “We are very pleased and we are grateful for the support of GoPro, the Town of Vail, the Towns of Red Cliff and Eagle, Vail Resorts, the U.S. Forest Service, the incredible work of more than 250 volunteers, and all of our partners and sponsors who make this the best celebration of mountain sports, music, and culture in the world.”

Thanks to Vail’s compact layout, all of the sporting events were within walking distance of one another, with athletes and fans easily traversing the town center to watch different competitions throughout the three days. The scene was infectious – with dozens of vendors pitching their booths to meet and greet with enthusiasts, mountain bikers slowly pedaling by on their way to their next race, whitewater kayakers paddling by and reggae music pouring from speakers.

My favorite events were the Slacklining competition, where acrobatic pros expertly performed flips, twists and splits on a modified, modernized tight rope – much to the wild amusement of the large crowd surrounding them. Then there was the DockDogs event – with highly skilled pups of every size jumped, swam and dove after sticks, balls and more in a giant pool. Then there was the exciting new Enduro Mountain Biking event, road bike time trials, trail-running, competitive fishing, and of course IFSC Climbing World Cup which brings together some of the world’s best rock climbers to compete in the only event like it in the US.