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On a sunny Saturday last summer in Vail, an 8-year-old girl jumped off her mountain bike and started sprinting down a trail toward the rope net strung between the trees. She stopped suddenly and looked behind her. “Come on!” she called to her young teammate, who was dressed in identical multi-colored striped socks, a fluorescent t-shirt, and a Camelback and rushing to catch up. The girls linked hands and ran toward the net, smiles stretched across their faces.
Adventure races for adults have been a mainstay in Colorado for more than a decade, with options ranging from Tough Mudder to the Warrior Dash and Spartan Race. However, the Kids Adventure Games (Kids A.G.), which launched its eighth season on June 18 in Park City, Utah, is the only race series in the nation designed specifically for kids.
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“What started out as a backyard birthday party for our 6-year-old twins has turned into an exceptional kids-only race series,” says Helene Mattison, who co-founded the Kids Adventure Games with her husband Billy. “We saw how much fun our kids had and thought, why not make it so more kids can participate? With a focus on teamwork, we provide kids with an opportunity to build confidence, learn environmental stewardship, and experience the thrill of adventure racing on a one-of-a-kind course.”
Since its inception in 2009, more than 15,000 kids aged 6–14 have conquered more than 120 obstacles each year in the games. The event has expanded, too: This year’s race features three distinct courses (a shorter version for smaller kids and first-timers, a mid-length option, and a longer version for seasoned participants) in addition to a family mud run, a free Family Adventure Zone, and optional skills clinics. Teams of two run the course by themselves: Parents can watch and cheer, but they’re strongly encouraged to stick to the sidelines.
“It’s important that kids make the decisions,” says Mattison. “It’s amazing what kids can do when they’re given the opportunity. It’s been wonderful seeing all that our participants accomplish and knowing that they’re taking the lessons that they learn with them.”
While the event has expanded to eight additional locations, from Stowe, Vermont, to Squaw Valley, California, in addition to its hometown of Vail, the Kids A.G. retains its core mission: to instill the values of teamwork, perseverance, and environmental stewardship.
For 9-year old Murphy Werner, who lives in Edwards and has participated in the Vail event for the past two years, the Kids A.G. taught her about strategy and teamwork. “The teamwork is just phenomenal, how they make you work together and how you have to stick together. If someone falls, you have to help them up,” says Werner. “I learned that having fun is the strategy.”
Her father, Jens Werner, is a fan of the Games, too. “As someone who’s done a lot of adventure sports, it’s a really cool thing to see your kid do something that’s outside of their comfort zone, to have the confidence to do it and finish it,” he says.
While the Kids Adventure Games event in Vail is already sold out, the Copper Mountain Family Adventure Quest, presented by the Kids A.G., takes place on July 1–2. A slightly different format than the classic games, the event will offer families a chance to experience the adventure course together with zip lines, mud pits, slack lines, cargo nets, trekking, biking, and other challenges in the Village at Copper and on Copper Mountain. Teams are made up of one child aged 6–14 and a family member or friend 16 or older.
If you go: Copper Family Adventure Quest takes place July 1–2 at Copper Mountain. Registration is $180 per team. The optional skills clinic is $60 per child. Find more info and sign up at kidsadventuregames.com