With 1,080 children competing, 2018 Kids Adventure Games was the biggest yet
VAIL — Just how big can the Kids Adventure Games get?
Not big enough, says founder Helene Mattison.
What started as a spin-off of a birthday party backyard obstacle course has blossomed into a national event, soon to go international, with stops in great places throughout the country.
Vail, the home venue, has always been the biggest race in the series and this year, the Vail games got bigger than ever as 1,080 kids — 180 teams of two, over the course of three days — took on the course’s 16 mountain-inspired features.
Spectators gathered in Vail throughout the weekend to watch kids zip line and slackline their way to glory.
Those spectators, in many cases, are mom, dad, grandma and grandpa. Visiting Vail from Denver for the weekend, JT Flora, 8, and his 6-year-old brother Jackson had two parents, two grandparents, an aunt and an uncle cheering them on.
“We made it a big family reunion out of it,” said Tracie Flora, the boys’ mother.
‘BLOOD ALL OVER’
While it was the Flora boys first ever Kids Adventure Games, their cousins, 7-year-old Tristan and Ethan, 8, participated in the Kids Adventure Games last year.
“This year my favorite event was tubing,” said Ethan Hunsaker.
“My favorite was the slip and slide,” said Tristan. “I haven’t been on a slip and slide that fast since last year when we were here.”
Jackson Flora endured a gnarly crash on the mountain biking portion of the course, flipping over his handlebars and scratching up his face.
“We had numbers on our chest, and his had blood all over it,” said JT Flora.
“He washed off the blood and kept going,” Tracie Flora said. “He was a trooper.”
Adults, while welcome to compete in a mud run side event, are not allowed to help the kids complete their course. In true adventure race orienteering tradition, navigating the course from obstacle to obstacle becomes a part of the challenge.
Kids ages 6 to 14 competed. The oldest kids enjoyed a gondola ride as part of the race.
“Next year we’re going to change the course again,” Mattison said.
Later this year Mattison will visit China and Canada to bring something like the Kids Adventure Games to those countries. She said Mexico and New Zealand are interested, as well.
Vail will always be the home venue for the games, said Mattison, as evidenced by just how many kids competed this year. In 2017, the event topped out at 126-two person teams per day. This year they boosted it to 180.
“And we still have a waiting list,” Mattison said. “The town of Vail has been trying to get us to expand it to different days, and I just can’t right now.”
The event was sponsored by L.L Bean this year, who made sure to incorporate the Small Champions, a local group charged with empowering the lives of Eagle County youth who are challenged with a variety of cognitive and physical disabilities.
One of those kids was Henry Schroeder, 14, who received a sponsored entry. Schroeder attacked the climbing wall with skill and grace.
“The games promote inclusivity; at the stations there’s helpers for the special needs kids,” said his mom, Sandy Schroeder. “Henry happens to be a good rock climber, though, so he didn’t need the help at that station.”