VAIL — Now in its fifth year, the KEEN Vail Kids Adventure Games expanded to five days and 750 kids in 2014, and it still sold out.
Participating in activities such as mountain biking, river tubing, slacklining over a mud pit and rappelling down the cliffs on Pepi’s Face, kids ages 6 to 14 conquered 20 or so obstacles in teams of two while navigating a course that ran through Vail Village and up Vail Mountain.
Contributing to the growth of the event is the fact that it’s so visible; different parts of the race could be observed from different points in Vail all weekend, attracting galleries of envious observers for hours on end.
“We were just up here hanging out one year and were like, ‘What’s all that going on?’ We saw it and thought, ‘We have to come back and do this race because it just looks so fun,’” said Audra Bergland of Boulder, whose daughter, 12-year-old Allie Bergland, was on team “Delicate But Deadly” with her friend Mia Manson, also 12.
Mia Manson’s father, Ben Manson, said they came in from Boulder just for the adventure race.
FAR AND WIDE
And that would be considered a short journey compared to some of the other teams in attendance.
Team “Hawkeye Strong” came in from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with members Casey and Cameron Walker wearing yellow and black Iowa colors, and “Los Matadores” — Felipe and Rodrigo Garcia — were here from Mexico to participate.
An enormous volunteer effort comes together to put the event on every year. Race official Beth Pappas with the Vail Recreation District said, like the race itself, the volunteer effort was also the biggest they’ve seen this year.
“I can’t say enough about these volunteers,” Pappas said. “Really, you can’t describe the amount of work that goes into putting this event on. It’s pretty overwhelming, and these volunteers are the ones who make it all happen.”
Among the more than 100 volunteers present over the weekend was local Dave Chapin, who said the adventure race is among his favorite events of the year.
“I just have a gas at this event, every year,” Chapin said. “I always think, ‘Imagine if we had something like this when we were kids.’”
Indeed, that attitude among adults is omnipresent at the Vail Kids Adventure Games. In an effort to include some of the parents and older siblings who wish they could participate in the event, the Vail Rec District incorporated a Family Mud Run into the program this year.
“We had nearly 400 entrants sign up,” said Jamie Gunion with the Vail Rec District. “People were covered in mud from head to toe.”
KIDS, PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS
The family aspect of the event is what Chapin, who also sits on the Vail Town Council, says is so attractive about the Vail Kids Adventure Games from a community and business perspective.
“This is ideal because it’s the family crowd,” Chapin said. “Anytime you can do an event where the participants are young, they will bring a parent.”
And sometimes, those kids bring more than just their parents.
Josh Marion, 12, had grandparents from both sides of his family cheering on him and his cousin, 13-year-old Tristan Kliegel.
Grandfather John Marion said he never expected he’d find himself traveling to Vail from Conifer to watch a team entitled “The Flying Zombies.”
“On Saturday, we came out and cheered on Josh’s sister, Lily, and today we’re here for the Zombies,” John Marion said.
Josh Marion’s grandfather on his mother’s side, Shelly Rosenberg, said he and Josh’s grandmother, Laurie, chose this weekend to visit Vail from their home in West Orange, New Jersey, because of the adventure race.
Josh has participated in the event all five years it has been in Vail.
“We keep our eye out and register as soon as we get the email,” said Josh’s father, Ben Marion. “This year it was easier with Josh and Lily because they competed on different days — stretching the event out across the weekend was a great idea.”
Working the “slope-n-slide,” a soapy tarp set up on the bottom of the Pepi’s Face ski run, Chapin said he’s excited about the day when Ben Marion’s future grandkids are competing in the Vail Kids Adventure Games.
“I can picture it, during the 25th or 30th annual event, when we have second-generation families coming here whose parents also competed,” Chapin said. “I feel like every kid who competes has a high potential of being a future customer here in Vail.”