The Teva Mountain Games are the Teva Mountain Games no more. They’ll still be around, just not with Teva as a sponsor. Teva president Joel Heath announced Nov. 28 that the footwear giant is pulling out of the Games after an 11-year run. PL checks in with Heath for the lowdown…
“It’s time for a change,” says Teva president Joel Heath, who started the Games in 2002 and sold them to The Vail Valley Foundation in 2008. “Marketing has really changed from when we started the Games. Back when we started events were the way to get and create communities. Today’s digital mediums can come together to do the same thing.”
After investing more than $8 million into the Games over the past 11 years, growing it into an international showcase for adventure sports drawing 3,000 athletes every June to Vail, Heath says Teva is now directing more of its marketing budget into athlete promotions and initiatives to support its online presence and branding.
Highlighting the Games every year were the paddling events, held on Gore Creek, Homestake Creek and the Eagle River. “I’ll never forget the first year we did the Homestake Race,” says Heath. “It was amazing that we managed to pull it off. It was always the big dark horse of will we have enough water or not?”
The same held true for the freestyle event on Gore Creek, which led to the creation of the Vail Whitewater Park. In the past few years Teva also added SUP events to the mix.
“Kayaking and paddling are still extremely important to us,” says Heath, adding that from a personal standpoint the Games and First Descents, a Vail-based nonprofit providing outdoor opportunities for kids with cancer, are two of his proudest accomplishments.
Last February, the event branched into winter sports, including such events as ice climbing, ski mountaineering and snow biking. The Vail Valley Foundation is still planning to hold the Feb. 8-10 Winter Mountain Games with Eddie Bauer as presenting sponsor.
Vail Valley Foundation vice president John Dakin told the Denver Post that the foundation is working to secure a title sponsor for both the Winter and Summer Games. “We don’t have a final resolution as it relates to summer, but we are very hopeful we will have something to share in the future,” he said.
Competitors certainly hope it will continue in the same vein. “The Teva Mountain Games have been one of the few events to pull in top athletes in both freestyle and creeking from around the world,” says seven-time women’s freestyle winner Emily Jackson. “It has also been an event where so many other top extreme supports come to compete that we get a whole new group of spectators, and sponsors. It was the first big pro women’s event that I won when I was 13, setting my confidence at a whole new high. It will be sad to see it no longer be called the Teva Mountain Games but I am excited to be a part of whatever events might happen there.”
No one wants the Games to continue and succeed as much as their founder, Heath. “No way do we want them to go away,” he says. “We’re confident they have things in place to move the Games forward. They hold a special place in my heart and the event still has a ton of value…that’s not why we left. We’re just moving in a different direction. Our goal was always to get the kid off the couch, and I think we achieved that.”