Ice the Competition: Hardcore Colorado athletes like Sari Anderson—pictured here at a ski mountaineering race in France—will skin for glory in their own backyard this winter. Photo: Ian Anderson

Mountain bikers weaving through a snowy slalom course. Climbers pushing the limits of speed and agility to navigate a wall full of ice and man-made obstacles. Freeheelers hucking off jumps for big air. These events, and many more, will shake up the mountains around Vail during the inaugural Winter Teva Mountain Games in February. Just don’t confuse it with the bling-filled X-Games—this event will showcase mountain athletes.

“Many of the greatest athletic performances happen in the back woods where no one sees them,” says Joel Heath, who founded the original Mountain Games and now works as the Global Marketing Director for Teva. “With the summer games, we brought together a variety of sports, athletes and incredible performances and made them accessible to the public. As a result, we created a very special environment. By fusing multiple winter events, we hope to create that same energy in the winter.”

The Summer Teva Mountain games, which started in 2002, have been wildly successful, growing to attract 45,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes over the four-day event last summer. Organizers expect that 1,000 athletes will grapple for podium spots and shares of the $60,000 purse this February. “The beauty of the Mountain Games is that amateurs and pros compete side by side,” says Shelley Woodworth, marketing director and project lead for the Vail Valley Foundation. “We’ve been collaborating with our partners and experts to create events—some that have never been seen before—that will be fun for spectators and will appeal to a diverse group of athletes.”

The event line-up includes mixed climbing, mountain cyclocross, big air biking, telemark skiing, snowshoe racing and an Ultimate Mountain Man/Woman competition comprised of a Nordic freestyle skiing race, a lung-burning hill ascent and an epic ski-mountaineering component.

Sari Anderson, a 10-year veteran of the games, three-time podium finisher in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge and mother of two, will vie for the Ultimate Mountain Woman title this winter. “The level of competition at Teva is always high. The event is very well organized and the prize money is a good motivator. But, most of all, I really enjoy the variety of athletes competing,” says Anderson. “The summer games have a distinct vibe because so many athletes and spectators return each year.  This develops a great camaraderie which I’m hoping will also develop at the winter games.”

Winter or summer, the Teva Mountain Games is more than just an athletic competition—it’s a celebration of the mountain lifestyle and a chance to build community. In addition to endless adventure competitions, the winter games will be full of free concerts, snow and ice sculpture contests, films, art, photography exhibits, dog events and parties.

The Winter Teva Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer will take place in Vail February 10-12, 2012. Check them out or, better yet, get in on the action and sign up to join in the games. tevamountaingames.com