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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
It’s hard to separate sport from competition yet some of the most popular activities in the United States continue to resist anything more structured than personal goal-setting. Hiking, as ancient a challenge as there can be, is perhaps the best example of these gentle sports. After all, why would you run anywhere when you can walk? Competitive hiking, then, sounds like a contradiction in terms.
The Middle Ground
Defining the sport of competitive hiking is tricky. Completing routes at pace is far more likely to fall under the trail-running, marathon or ‘fastpacking’ umbrellas, while race walking, in which one of the competitor’s feet must be in contact with the ground at all times, has been an Olympic staple for more than a century of Games. Competitive hiking would therefore have to occupy a nebulous middle ground between these offshoots.
Local challenges do serve as a form of competition within the hiking niche. The Las Vegas Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge takes hikers up Mount Charleston and Mummy Mountain, among others, while similar events include routes up five to 52 peaks in Nevada. Fun, almost definitely, but these self-paced events are perhaps not something that major sporting bodies or the bookmakers will ever take seriously.
Still, unlikely sports are as numerous as traditional ones. Many bookmaker comparison sites list eSports (video gaming) as an up-and-comer in sports betting and TV broadcasting, and Statista forecasts growth in the industry to £1.6bn by 2024. Gaming site Betway also offers markets on niche sports such as martial arts, futsal, Gaelic football and floorball, suggesting that hiking’s lack of prime-time TV slots isn’t necessarily a turn-off for fans.
The time investment required for hiking challenges is significant – yet easily overcome with a multi-day format that either challenges hikers to cover the most ground in a certain amount of time (like in the 24hrs of Le Mans vehicle race) or sets a target peak as a per-day destination. Self- and leisurely-pacing is possible in both scenarios but the elimination aspect in the latter example encourages participants to challenge themselves.
Las Vegas is well placed to champion competitive hiking. There is a wealth of trails in the metro area, including Fire Wave and White Domes in the Valley of Fire, and Red Rock Canyon’s Calico Hills and Ice Box Canyon, and the city has already produced plenty of sporting icons, like Andre Agassi and NASCAR’s Bruton Smith. Vegas also hosts around 42.5m tourists per year, many of whom head into the hills and canyons of Nevada alongside the locals.
Of course, the question remains whether career hikers would have any interest in upping the pace or competing in a structured way. Regarded more as a vacation than a race to the finish, hiking can be a rare escape from work challenges and the day-to-day stress of living in Vegas. Even as a contradiction though, competitive hiking does present an opportunity both for the growth of the activity and for anybody who prefers a brisk pace.
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV