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Sky Islands Summit Challenge draws visitors to Sierra Vista mountains

This Saturday, over 100 people from throughout the state and beyond will dot the mountains of Sierra Vista as they participate in one of the city’s signature events.

The Sky Islands Summit Challenge takes both visitors and locals to some of the most scenic spots for outdoor recreation in the area with the growing hiking event.

The nearly 140 registered participants will have their choice between three different hiking trails or summits — One Summit: Carr Peak; Double Summit: Carr Peak and Miller Peak; and Elite Triple Summit: Carr and Miller peaks, plus Pat Scott.

City of Sierra Vista public information officer Adam Curtis said the event serves as a way to introduce people to the number of activities available and natural beauty of the city.

“It was started for local residents and people throughout the region and to attract visitors from Tucson, Phoenix and even other states,” he said. “It’s a great way to get our name out there to people who would really enjoy living in the area.”

Curtis said they often draw in a number of people from larger cities, many of whom had limited experience or knowledge of the city before the summit challenge.

“We have gotten some really awesome feedback from hikers from Tucson and Phoenix who had no idea we have mountains like this here and they want to visit again,” he said. “We’ve seen a good benefit in attracting folks from out of town.”

The city did a lot of outreach to Tucson and Phoenix for this year’s event in an attempt to bring a good number of visitors to the area again.

Sports supervisor John Healy said many large cities like Phoenix have similar summit challenges, but the one here provides a little more challenge with the mountains while still offering something for different skill levels.

“We have a full range of different demographics that participate, from avid trail runners to social hikers who want to try it,” he said. “We do three peaks anywhere from 10-18 miles and you get to get up to three of the best views of the city we have.”

Healy said the event continues to grow and that it has major benefits to the city.

“I think we go into the realm of sports tourism with this event,” he said. “It’s just a unique sporting event that brings people down to hike who may not have ordinarily thought it was something they could do.”

Participants had until May 21 to register and will all receive a swag bag and t-shirt.

Hikers should bring three liters of water, snacks and sunscreen. Since the event will go on, rain or shine, it’s recommended that participants bring a rain poncho.

The Sky Islands Challenge is put on in conjunction with the Sierra Vista Wine, Beer & Spirits Festival which takes place the same day in the evening.

Curtis said both events are branded as Sips and Skies and the idea was to bring hikers from the challenge into Veterans Memorial Park to see the rest of the city.

“Part of the idea was that people who participate could then go to the festival the same day,” Curtis said. “It’s a way on Memorial Day weekend to attract people here for the long weekend and introduce them to what makes Sierra Vista an extraordinary place to visit.

“We are also positioned between two major wine grape growing regions so this is leverage on our position for awesome day trips to vineyards.”

There will be medical support offered throughout the entire event and Healy said it would not be possible without Fry Fire District, Sierra Vista Fire and Medical Services, the U.S. Forest Service and Cochise County Emergency Management Team.

”Fry Fire puts two technical response teams in the mountains and they camp overnight,” he said. ‘”Sierra Vista Fire and EMS helps with the start and finish line so we do have medical support on standby and have radios in the mountains for personnel to talk to each other.”

Registration for this event has closed.

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