Imagine getting together with 3-5 of your best friends and spending 24 straight hours racing around your city doing ridiculous, intimidating, and exhausting challenges. In the morning, you might be high in the mountains, trying to catch a fish with a fly rod, and by the afternoon, you might be performing a choreographed dance on the steps of the state capitol. Sounds pretty crazy, right?
Well, stop imagining, because that’s exactly what the Cotopaxi Questival is like, and the winning team gets thousands of dollars of prizes, so the stakes are pretty high.
How does it work? You build a team of 2-6 people, and from Friday night to Saturday night, your team has 24 hours to complete as many challenges as possible, as creatively as possible. Each challenge is worth a different amount of points depending on the difficulty, and as you rack up challenge completions, your team rises in the ranks. Once a team gets into the top 10, points don’t matter anymore and everything is based on peer judging, so the more creative the challenge submission, the better score you’ll receive. Other competitors judge the content, which determines the overall winner.
A couple weeks ago, I competed in Cotopaxi Questival for the third time, and this year we had an all-female team that was ready to take down the competition. Last time I entered I came in 10th place. But this time, we didn’t even make the top 50. Not to worry, though. Every single thing I did within the 24 hours made me feel like a champion, because each challenge pushed my boundaries, made me laugh, and left a lasting impression. Here are the 7 ways to win at Questival – even if you don’t technically win.
1. ATTEND THE KICKOFF PARTY
Questival starts with the kickoff festival, and it is a blast. It happens on the Friday night that the race starts. Most importantly, you pick up your totem – a flag that has to be in the photo for every challenge submission to get points. In addition, the party is filled with food trucks, booths and vendors, a giant slip-n-slide, obstacle course, zip-line, disc golf course, Mario Kart tournament, rock climbing walls, and more. You name it, and it was probably there.
There were tons of challenges to complete at the festival, so we helped ourselves to a little of everything, including devouring some pre-race food at my favorite food truck, Cupbop.
Bonus tip: Even if you’re not signed up to compete in Questival, you can still attend the check-in party! So bring all your friends and live it up!
2. CAMP WITH STRANGERS
Almost always, there are challenges to be completed with another team while camping. As an introvert, I usually opt to camp with just my team and not do those challenges, but this year, we decided to go out of our comfort zones and meet some new people. I connected with another team through the Facebook event beforehand, and we decided on a place to meet up.
After the kickoff festival, we headed to the campsite and had so much fun singing around the campfire, creating a homemade ghillie suit to scare each other, drawing llamas with charcoal, sharing food and roasting s’mores.
3. BOWL A STRIKE
Another highlight of the race was midnight bowling at Fat Cats in SLC. We ran into another team there and made even more friends as we had a spontaneous “bowl-off.” (They won.) We boogied to Michael Jackson as we worked on achieving the elusive bowling challenge we had come there for: to bowl a strike and then do the moonwalk.
This meant that we had to videotape each and every attempt until one of us knocked over all the pins in one go. Frame after frame went by, but no luck. Then it happened – Ana bowled a perfect strike, danced a perfect moonwalk… and turned around to find that the video hadn’t worked. Luckily, a few frames later, I did the same, and it was captured on camera. Victory!
4. JUMP FROM A ROPE SWING
On Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early to head to Tibble Fork and do a ton of challenges that required a lake. We fit all four of us on a paddleboard without capsizing it (much more difficult than it sounds), caught a couple fish, and filtered water to drink from the lake. The final challenge awaited: jump from a rope swing.
We hiked around the lake to the swing, but diving into an alpine lake at 9:00 am is no easy feat. I was nominated to go first, so I took a few deep breaths, wrapped my fingers around the rope, and flung myself off of dry land. There were a few blissful moments of swinging and free falling before I hit the icy surface and came up gasping for warm air and grinning. There’s no better adrenaline rush than the sudden embrace of cold mountain water.
5. EAT SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU
There are tons of food challenges involved in this race, and most of them are truly disgusting. You will never find me filling my entire mouth with mustard or chowing down on dog food (I did that last time – never again). But there are some challenges that I will do for the good of the team, and I guess eating crickets is one of them.
Full disclosure: I’ve eaten crickets before at a fear factor party, but that time they were cooked in butter and garlic and actually not bad. This time, they were freeze-dried (still no live crickets for me, thanks) and flavored salt & vinegar. I swear you can find anything at Pirate-O’s! I gulped them down with a glass of water. It was gross.
6. EXPLORE YOUR CITY
The best part about Questival is that it takes you to parts of your city that you may never have been before or wouldn’t normally go. This time, it took us to Willow Lake, which was one of the hike challenges. We raced up the trail, through hundreds of wildflowers and filtered sunlight, before emerging into the most gorgeous meadow and finally, the lake.
It was one of those moments that you can’t rush, so we enjoyed our time wandering the lake shore and taking photos. The sun hung low in the sky and we swatted mosquitos. It was magic.
7. DO GOOD
Aside from the fact that Questival is a blast, the reason I keep coming back to it is because Cotopaxi, the company that puts it together, is amazing. They sell outdoor gear and for every purchase made, a percentage is given to help alleviate poverty in developing countries. The Cotopaxi slogan is “Do good” and this mission is woven into everything they do, including Questival.
There are tons of volunteering and donating challenges, and the one we chose was to add a book to a Little Free Library. We grabbed a used book from a bookstore and dropped it off at this little stop by the state capitol, so hopefully kids in that area will have something new to read! Even though it was small, it inspired me to do more small acts of goodness in my community every day.
The good news about Questival is that it doesn’t just happen in Salt Lake City! There’s a national tour of this race every single year (there are still a few coming up in September this year) so check out the website to see if it’s coming to your city. And if you are in SLC, but you missed it this summer – never fear, because Oktoberquest is happening here in just a few months. It’s basically Questival with a spooky spin. Check it out, and maybe I’ll see you there!