The Teva Winter Mountain Games begin today

The first-ever Teva Winter Mountain Games get underway today in Vail, Colorado, where some of the top pro and amateur outdoor athletes have gathered to compete in a variety of sports. The event, which lasts through the weekend, will also feature a number of concerts, gear giveaways, clinics, and more.

Some of the sports that the athletes will be competing in including ice climbing, Nordic and telemark skiing, snowshoeing, and on-snow cycling. Even man’s best friend can get in on the action, as there are several events for dogs to compete too. But the biggest event of the weekend is the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, which features three different sports spread out over three days. In order to be crowned the King or Queen of the Mountain, a single athlete will have to fend off all the competition in a Nordic Freestyle race today, than follow it up with an up-hill cross country skiing competition tomorrow. On Sunday, those same competitors will then square off in the toughest stage of all – a skiing race up, over, and back down, Vail Mountain.

A large group of spectators are expected to be hand over the three-day event, cheering on their favorite athletes. That crowd won’t have to sit on the sidelines without getting the opportunity to join in on the fun however, as they’ll get the chance to take part in photo competitions and clinics, test out some gear, and hone their own winter outdoor skills. They can also enjoy an adventure film festival, listen to some live bands, and join the celebration at several parties.

The inaugural Teva Winter Mountain Games is a natural extension of the summer Mountain Games, which will be taking place later this year. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who loves to run, ride, or climb, you’ll certainly find a lot to love at both events.

U.S. ski resorts get much needed snow at last

It has been a very tough season so far for many of the ski resorts across the western United States. Warmer than normal temperatures and little snowfall had conspired to make it a challenging start to the winter. But things have started to change out west, and a few big storms over the past few weeks have made now made it possible for skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes at last.

The Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, for instance, got hit with a massive winter storm last week, resulting in 80 inches (that’s 6.5 feet!) in just eight days time. That brought their snow base up to 80 inches on the mountain, and their total seasonal accumulation to 198″. As a result, all runs are open and skiers are taking advantage of the great conditions at last.

Similarly, Mammoth Mountain in California had a big snow storm in late-January as well, getting more than four feet of accumulation in just a few days time. That brought their total base to 40-60 inches, depending on where you are on the slopes, and they currently have received over 107″ of powder so far this year. After a bit of slow start to their season, Mammoth now has all lifts and runs open for business too.

In Utah, Alta and Snowbird now have over 165″ of snowfall for the year, bringing their bases to 69 and 65 inches respectively. In Colorado, Vail has grown their base to more than 35 inches, with a foot of new snow falling in the past week alone. Montana’s Big Sky Resort now has a base between 45 and 69 inches in depth, while Sun Valley, Idaho reports similar numbers.

What does all of this mean for skiers? Winter is now officially here! Take advantage of it while you can, as it could be fleeting, but it seems that at long last, there are some excellent snow conditions for those eager to hit the slopes.

[Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain]

Chile’s Valle Nevado ski resort rolls out early-bird special

Dedicated pow hounds tend to hightail it to the Southern Hemisphere once summer rears its sunny head. Chile is justly famous for its snow, as well as its lack of crowds, above-timberline terrain, and epic backcountry and vertical accessible via heli-skiing.

Valle Nevado, located 20 miles east of Santiago, is already the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, during its June 22-October 2nd winter season, it has even more enticements to offer.

North American and UK guests who book and pay before March 31st, 2012, will receive up to 50% off a season-long package that includes a seven-night stay at any of Valle Nevado’s three hotels (which range from high-end to budget), and two interconnect tickets for the neighboring resorts of La Parva and El Colorado, which opens 7,400 acres of skiable terrain (that’s more than Vail, for you ski and snowboard die-hards).

The promotion also includes 25% off equipment rental, a complimentary 30-minute massage, and free attendance at the weekly Thursday Wine Festival. Look for forthcoming announcements on heli-skiing packages, as well. To book, call 1-800-669-0554 from the U.S., or email

Top 8 attractions in Vail, Colorado for 2011/2012

Measured at approximately 5,289 acres, the Vail Ski Resort is the largest single mountain ski resort in the United States and the second largest resort in all of North America (next to Whistler Blackcomb). With a rich history and lively village surrounding the base of the resort, it’s a destination that has plenty to offer both avid skiers & relaxation seekers.

As the 2010/2011 ski season officially comes to a close, there are still plenty of reasons to visit the quaint mountain town for its variety of summer activities. If you’ve been eyeing the wide open expanses of Colorado’s Rockies, then don’t miss my top 8 picks of the best that Vail has to offer:

1. Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
Vail received its first major recognition as an international ski resort in the mid 1970’s when President Gerald Ford carried out a large part of the nation’s business from his family’s home in the town. The Fords left a visible legacy throughout the valley and in 1988, the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation honored former First Lady Betty Ford by naming the world’s highest botanical garden (8,200 ft.) in her honor.

The gardens feature about 2,000 varieties of plants including 500 varieties of wildflowers and high elevation flora. Located just a few miles west of the main town, the gardens are open to the public (free) from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and are certainly worth a visit for those looking for a peaceful afternoon outdoors.

2. Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum
Just outside the center of Vail’s main village, you’ll find the Colorado Ski Museum; a fascinating collection of memorabilia that illustrates the timeline of Vail’s establishment as well as the evolution of snow sports in the state of Colorado. The museum gives especially valuable insight into the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division, which trained during the 1940’s in the mountains southeast of Vail and would later influence Vail’s development as a ski resort.

If the progression of Olympic ski outfits interests you, or you’re curious to find out why Colorado rejected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, then pay a visit to the Colorado Ski & Snowboard museum. Best of all, it’s completely free!

3. Cinébistro / bōl
Dubbed as “The new center of Vail”, the Solaris complex is a brand new residence & entertainment development that took the place of the long-standing Crossroads Shopping Center. Two of the entertainment highlights at Solaris are Cinébistro, a multi-screen premium movie theater that serves food & beverages to a 21-and-up audience and the neighboring bōl, an ultra-chic futuristic bowling alley that features 10 lanes under a row of giant LED screens and Euro-club mood lighting. Both offer a great selection of food, drinks and comfortable spots to lounge with all those hip new friends you’ve made.

Both venues are pricey, but if you’re looking to splurge on a night of fun while in Vail, then these are the places to do it.

4. Block 16 @ The Sebastian
If you’ve been to Vail in the past few years, then you’ll notice that the former Vail Plaza Hotel & Club has a new name – the Sebastian Hotel. After being taken over by a family-owned investment group out of Mexico City, the Vail Plaza was given a minor makeover and name change. With this makeover came the addition of a few new restaurants; including a refined “visionary” new restaurant called Block 16.

Between an extensive wine selection, an exciting menu full of variety and an excellent staff, there’s plenty to love about Block 16. The prices are slightly higher than the majority of the restaurants in Vail, but one bite of the wagyu beef or duck confit with orange will make all of those thoughts disappear.


5. Club 8150 / Samana Lounge
If you still have energy after the day’s activities and are searching for a good nightlife scene, check out the subterranean Samana Lounge or the impressive Club 8150. Both have a reputation for offering an impressive lineup of DJ’s and touring artists during the winter season, and you can be sure to find a lively, young crowd that loves to dance on most weekend nights.

6. Game Creek Club
For those of you getting married, looking to host a memorable company dinner, or really want to go all-out for a private dining experience, look no further than the Game Creek Club. Accessible only by a Gondola ride that links up with a private snowcat, the Game Creek Club is an expansive lodge tucked away on the backside of Vail’s Eagle’s Nest Ridge. In addition to a beautiful sprawling balcony perfectly situated for watching the sun set over a glass of Pinot, the Game Creek Club offers lavish 4 course meals and a comfortable setting that’s nice, but not overly stuffy. Prices are fitting for such an exclusive outing but it’s by far one of the best and most unique experience Vail has to offer, and won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Reservations can be made over the phone at (970) 754-4275.

7. Ice Skating @ Vail Square / Lionshead Village
Lining the bottom of the mountain just West of the main village lies the posh & picturesque Lionshead Village. At Lionshead, you’ll find a selection of art galleries, restaurants and coffee bars located around a beautiful skating rink. During the winter months, this is a great place to bring the family and cozy up next to a fire pit while the kids have a go at testing their skating abilities.

8. Blue Sky Chairlift
During the ski season, many locals will tell you that the best section of Vail’s 5,000+ acres is the secluded and less crowded backcountry of Blue Sky Basin. At the 11,480 foot summit, you’ll find Belle’s Camp; a warming hut and picnic area with a view of the surrounding Rockies that cannot be beat. Blue Sky has all types of terrain to choose from and just getting there is an adventure in itself. The only downside is that the lifts on this side of the mountain close earlier, so plan accordingly.

Of course, this list is just the tip of the icicle when it comes to Vail’s attractions. There are enough hot tubs, art galleries, and quaint restaurants to keep most visitors busy for a jam-packed 4-5 days all year round.

If you’re a fan of Vail and have some additional inside information that is missing from this list, give us the scoop & leave a comment below!

Stephen traveled to the Vail Film Festival on a trip sponsored by Olympus. No editorial content was guaranteed and he was free to openly experiment with Olympus’s cameras while snowboarding, bathing in picturesque hot tubs, and rubbing elbows with A-list celebrities.

Inside the 2011 Vail Film Festival (w/ exclusive video)

A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the 8th annual Vail Film Festival to check out Olympus’s new initiatives in digital filmmaking and photography. As someone that loves independent films, experimenting with digital cameras, and snowboarding; the only way I would have been more anxious to pack my bags and fly to Colorado would’ve been if Lindsey Vonn had personally offered to escort me to the slopes and give me ski lessons upon arrival.

I’d never visited any Colorado ski resorts, so all of my preconceptions of the town were summoned from an exaggerated mix of pop culture references to Aspen (think Dumb & Dumber, Southpark or Family Guy). Just before touching down at Eagle Airport, I imagined that I would have to sift through hoards of stiff yuppies draped in mink furs and Burberry scarves scoffing at me for participating in the barbaric sport of the mono-ski.
But after settling into the newly remodeled Sebastian Hotel and taking a walk through the quaint cobblestone streets, I was relieved to find a proportionate balance of twenty-somethings on spring break from the nearby CSU Boulder, mild-mannered family crowds, and even a few polite young urban proffesionals sipping chardonnay and enjoying the afternoon’s aprés-ski.

Olympus came to Vail as one of the primary sponsors of the film festival and host of the 48-hour “PEN Your Short” competition. This contest gave teams of filmmakers the chance to shoot a 3 to 5 minute long video in just 48 hours with the PEN EP-L 2, a compact digital SLR camera that boasts interchangeable lenses and an array of in-camera ‘art filters’. The participants of the contest ranged from tight teams of young but experienced production buffs to a pair of local radio hosts that desperately began to search for a video editor moments after the countdown kicked off.

In theory, it was a great chance for everyone to showcase their ability; a level playing field of equipment, a list of specific shots & techniques to be incorporated in the videos, and the freedom to showcase any topic or narrative feasible within the given deadline.

Shot with the Olympus PEN and Olympus Tough TG-610

After meeting the 48-hour teams & getting familiar with the PEN, the impressive XZ-1, and Olympus’s Tough TG-610, myself and the handful of other journalists had the chance to participate in the weekend’s festivities and catch the various festival events and screenings. In its 8th year, the Vail Film Festival has yet to reach Telluride or Sundance proportions; but the stars that came to support the event and quality of the films shown lead me to believe it will eventually grow to be associated within the weight class of the bigger festivals over the next 5 years.

The films screened ranged from a charming low budget love story titled Falling Overnight, to a quirky Sideways-esque film about a female scientist that refuses to give up control in every aspect of her life, to a fascinating documentary about legendary skier Bill Johnson.

There were festival parties held across several ballrooms inside the Sebastian, with intimate musical performances by artists like Cary Brothers & Meiko. Representatives of films in the festival rubbed elbows with Vail’s socialites and a few celebrities (that had been lured to the festival by handing them awards) like Kate Bosworth, Michael Imperioli & Oscar Nunez; Lindsey Vonn even made a brief appearance, but I got the impression that my ski lessons would have to wait.

One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was chatting with Kris Krosskove, a Hollywood cinematographer and camera operator that had used the Olympus PEN to shoot several of the racing scenes in Disney’s 2010 horse-racing film Secretariat. Krosskove took advantage of the PEN’s small profile to capture angles that wouldn’t have been possible with full sized cameras, using it to shoot fast-paced action sequences that were then intercut with standard 35-mm film shots. It was both fascinating and reassuring to speak with a professional that was using the same tools that everyday consumers have access to; proof that a typically slow-to-adapt industry is in fact willing to incorporate new, inexpensive technology.

The founders of the Vail Film Festival are well on their way to establishing a legacy in Vail, and for travelers interested in independent film but reluctant to join the masses at Sundance it’s certainly a viable mountain festival alternative. The good snow, great venues throughout the town, and an overall charming and pleasant setting to mingle with the creative class and see a unique selection of films will certainly bring me back.

To check out the unique variety of finished films from the Olympus 48-hour film competition, visit the Olympus Youtube channel and see if your favorites match up with the contest winners.

Stephen traveled to the Vail Film Festival on a trip sponsored by Olympus. No editorial content was guaranteed and he was free to openly experiment with Olympus’s cameras while snowboarding, bathing in picturesque hot tubs, and rubbing elbows with A-list celebrities.