Spots still open for Copper Family Adventure Quest fun run, July 1-12 | SummitDaily.com

Spots still open for Copper Family Adventure Quest fun run, July 1-12

The first time Meggen Kirkham watched her 7-year-old daughter raft on Gore Creek before taking a slip-and-slide down Pepi's Face at Vail — the steep, moguly monster towering high over Vail Village — you'd better believe she freaked out just a little.

"That was pretty exhilarating," Kirkham said of her daughter's first solo float trip down the rocky Gore, one of a dozen obstacles at the Vail Kids Adventure Games in 2014. "Nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time, but, just overall, these obstacles are pretty intense. As parents, you're cheering them on and stressing out at the same time, holding your tongue — but then they do it."

For her first Kids Adventure Games, Kirkham's daughter, Kylie, paired with a good friend to tackle the obstacles as a team. It's one of the only kid-friendly adventure races in the U.S., a pint-sized version of the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race events that are growing more and more popular every summer. And, as the Keen-sponsored kid's series continues to grow — it's now in its seventh season after debuting at Vail in 2009 — organizers have added more and more events, including similar races in Park City and Squaw Valley of Utah, Stowe Mountain in Vermont, and Mammoth Mountain in California.

This weekend, the series continues to expand with the debut of the Copper Family Adventure Quest. It takes everything parents and kids love about the Kids Adventure Games — hiking, biking, rafting, giggling and occasional crying on a three-mile course in the woods and base village — and adds a new element: Mom and dad getting down and dirty with their kiddos.

"This is really the first family adventure race, one with parents and kids," said Bill Mattison, co-founder of the series with his partner, Helene Mattison. "The number one question we get from parents is, 'When can we do it?' So this is a way to get everyone together. Mother and daughter can race, father and son can race, a whole family can get out there, and that's a really cool thing to bring to Copper."

The weekend kicks off on Friday with team registration and an optional skills clinics. During the clinics ($55 in addition to race registration), kids and parents get a crash course — hopefully with no crashing involved — on the obstacles they'll encounter during the Saturday race. Clinics are available for all four age divisions and taught by local experts. Most clinics will last about four hours and cover the whole gamut of skills, from mountain biking and rock climbing techniques to how best to work as a team on an adventure-racing course.

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"Most of the kids have never done anything like this before, and so many parents are blown away by what their kids just did," Mattison said. "The parents love it. You could call it a sense of pride: You're always nervous before a race and just hope that it comes together, and they always seem to turn out OK. Matter of fact, they turn out better than OK."

Come race day, parents and kids have two options: the two-person competitive division ($150 per team), or the open non-competitive division ($150 per team), which is open to as many as two children and one parent per team. And, for the first time, Kirkham gets to join her daughter on the course.

"As parents we want to participate with our kids," Kirkham said. "It seems like such a fun event to be part of. When you can get out and do all these obstacles, it's just awesome."

She knows first-hand the nervous excitement that comes with watching (and soon participating in) an adventure race, but she also knows just how much the series can teach youngsters. For the third year in a row, her daughter is racing in Vail with her only partner, Dylan Stepanek, and Kirkham says the two have become a force to reckon with over the past two seasons — even if the slip-and-slide still draws a tear or two.

"I remember Kylie sat up there for a little while, wondering, 'Is this really what I want to do?'" she recalled from her daughter's first trip sliding down Pepi's Face. "Everyone at the bottom was cheering her on, and she ended up doing it, but you don't know where you're going to land … She enjoyed it enough to come back."

As a mountain mom, Kirkham also sees the kid's series as the perfect introduction to all of the wild, crazy, potentially dangerous activities local kids tend to see — and enjoy. The teams learn teamwork and camaraderie, she says, not only with their teammates, but also with everyone on the course: rivals and parents and friends, alike.

"The experience they have there takes them back to something like the GoPro Games, where they get to watch pro athletes do these cool events," she said. "For one day, they have the chance to be an uber-athlete."

And, if racing still isn't quite your thing? No problem, she says. Parents can still do plenty from the sidelines.

"Just cheer them on," Kirkham said. "Don't be that parent who's on the side yelling at them to go faster or getting nervous. Just let them have fun."

Copper Family Adventure Quest

What: A three-mile adventure race for teams of parents, children and friends, with obstacles ranging from climbing walls to pond crossings across the Copper Mountain base area and nearby trails

When: Friday and Saturday, July 1-2

Where: Copper Mountain

Cost: $150 per team of two

Registration for the Copper event is still available online, with four timed and untimed divisions for children ages 6 to 14 years old. Timed teams can include one adult and one child. Untimed teams can include one adult and one child, one adult and two children or two adults and two children. For more info or to register, see the event website at http://www.kidsadventuregames.com.