I spent last weekend “working” at the GoPro Mountain Games. It was inspiring, exhausting, and quite lucrative for gathering free stuff.
Vail is a strange town with random signs saying “like nowhere on earth.” It’s more like a European-themed amusement park with chair lifts and a ski mountain as rides and tons of Swiss-chalet-style Patagonia outlets. However, with river rapids in the center of town, an abundance of eateries and sports stores, and several hotels on every block, it was the perfect place to host the GoPro Mountain Games.
The games host a variety of events for athletes of all ages, skill levels and species. There are competitions for slacklining, kayaking, rafting, running through the mud, biking, doggie long jump (yes, it’s where you see how far off a platform your dog can jump after a toy before hitting the pool water), and the IFSC bouldering World Cup, among other events. It is also a paradise of vendors supplying crowds with free giveaways.
To do the Mountain Games right, you should make sure to maximize your accumulation of random free items. Entry to watch the competitions is free, so you have the potential to “make money” off the event if you do things right.
Here is a guide to help you plan for next year:
First, make sure you get both a media pass and a VIP pass. The media pass gets you random funky neon USB connectors and smartphone car chargers stashed inside a canvas bag resembling 1970s safari pants. It also gets you a bracelet, which in turn gets you into a lounge serving free food, happy hour drinks, and “Strong” Kind bars. If you need to take a break from scrounging from free stuff, the pass also allows you to speak with whichever athletes venture into the lounge and gets you into the media section of events for a closer view of competitions for pictures (meaning your Instagram will be awesome for three days). The VIP pass gets you into another lounge with even more free food for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks and a great goodie bag with a free Columbia soft shell, a t-shirt, a knife, the latest issue of Rock and Ice, socks, a hat, and some other random items.
Now, attend the games with an organization that allows you to get a free hotel room. I can only speak for the Antlers at Vail, but our room did come with two pull-out couches (though no bed), a balcony complete with grill, a full kitchen, a knife set as a wall decoration, and a fake fireplace. It was also a 20-minute stroll from the games and had a pool and hot tubs. Not too bad for five people.
And then there are the hundreds of vendors. You can tap an iPad mini screen for a free Buff with your spirit animal on it, hit up free power yoga at 8:30 a.m., drink shot-sized amounts of Starbucks coffee beverages and various sports drinks, eat Honey Stinger Waffles in bite-sized pieces, sample gummies two at a time, gather hundreds of stickers, find a hat or two, and collect enough Kind Bars and dog treats to keep you and your furry friend fueled for a month after the games. Some vendors even hand out little drawstring track bags with their logos on them, which are quite handy for carting around free samples that don’t have to be consumed right away. However, I’d recommend bringing your 70-liter pack to fill with as much stuff as possible; you don’t want to risk dropping anything because you were walking around with your arms full.
Some general free stuff gathering tips:
- Take as much as you can from each vender without being noticed. If they turn away, then grab another sticker, if not, just take as much as everyone else and come back in an hour or two for a second or third or fifth go-round.
- Fill out every raffle card you find, because, who knows, you might win another Osprey backpack—to be filled with extra free stuff—or a Goal Zero solar panel to power your phone on camping trips.
- Bring multiple jackets. If you do accidentally do something memorable in front of a vendor, simply change jackets so you’ll be harder to recognize. Bring sunglasses and a hat for a more compete disguise.
- Grab extra stuff on Sunday. It’s the final day of the games, and the last thing overtired vendors want to do is pack up leftover products at the end of the day. They’re happy to get rid of almost everything, so try your luck and ask about the availability of display items. You might get a “no,” but it’s worth the shot at additional free gear. They might also direct you to additional free items you’d have otherwise missed.
Originally published June 8, 2015, on coffeetapeibuprofenclimb.blogspot.com.