Kids Adventure Games Returns to Vail, Bringing a Landmark Event to the Village

Kids cross the finish line at Kids Adventure Games Sunday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Kids Adventure Games returned to Vail after a three-year absence, creating an outdoor playground in the village that was hard to miss on the busy weekend.

The games began Friday and continued through Sunday, and the hundreds of children who participated now know the Vail Valley intimately after fording the creek waters that shaped it.

Organizers Helene and Billy Mattison said they were excited to bring their mountain obstacle course back to Vail Village, a good sign for the Kids Adventure Games event tour as it begins a return to national status. The Kids Adventure Games offered a stripped-down tour last summer after being completely canceled during the 2020 pandemic.

The event started in Vail in 2009, co-founded by the Mattisons and produced in conjunction with the Vail Recreation District. A decade later, the Mattisons were hosting the event in nine locations across the country, finding host venues in other ski towns like Big Bear Lake and Mammoth Lakes in California or Park City in Utah. . Near his home in Vail, the Kids Adventure Games also hosted a Copper Mountain Once Upon a Time event.

Kids tube down Gore Creek during Kids Adventure Games Sunday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

After being canceled in 2020, however, last year the games only had two events in total, one in Fruita and one in Minturn, a variation of the home event in Vail.

Helene Mattison said it was good to know that Maloit Park in Minturn is able to host a good Kids Adventure Games event, but she was also happy to be back in Vail Village this year.

“It went really well,” she said. “We had 94 teams on Sunday, 126 on Saturday and 116 on Friday.”

These two-kid teams cycled on mountain bike trails, used a zipline traverse to cross water, jumped off a false cliff, slacked off on a mud pit, rode tubes and swam and ran through Gore Creek, scaled a rock climbing wall on Bridge Street in front of cheering crowds, raced a single-track trail on Vail Mountain, and slid down a steep body of water called the slope-n-slide, the signature feature of the Kids Adventure Games that takes place near the bottom of the iconic Pepi’s Face track on Vail Mountain.

Children use ropes to cross a creek during Children’s Adventure Games Sunday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The event required a lot of cooperation with Vail Mountain, which was helpful in obliging, Mattison said. The event also requires the cooperation of the US Forest Service and the City of Vail.

Beth Pappas of the Vail Recreation District hosts the event every year and also recruits her mother to volunteer. Pappas’ job is to coordinate and schedule the workers; she said they try to reach 100 volunteers a day, and while they didn’t quite get there this year, they still managed to pull off the event.

“The town is a lot busier in the summer than it was when we started this event so there are a lot of diversions to stay out of the main corridors, it needs a lot more volunteers and marshals” , said Pappas.

At Maloit Park in Minturn last year, they were able to run the event using fewer volunteers, “but there really is something special about being in Vail Village and the energy that comes with it,” said Pappas said.

Teamwork helps two kids get over the wall at the start of Kids Adventure Games Sunday in Vail. The races took place all weekend in the village.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Pappas called as many people as she could think of for help, including the contestants themselves. On Sunday, after finishing class with the best time of the day, Red Hill Elementary School students Aberle Hyatt and Brynley Velez, both 9, took to the climbing wall to bring the tubes back to the entrance to Gore Creek.

The girls were part of a team called the Electric Dragons; they posted a quick time of 49 minutes, which was faster than most older boys’ and girls’ teams, organizer Billy Mattison said.

After learning from Brynley’s mother, Megan Velez (who learned from Pappas) that the event was a bit short on volunteers, the Electric Dragons crossed the finish line and then got to work helping out.

“And they worked all the time,” Megan Velez said.

Brynley said they were happy to do so.

“We love to cheer on all the kids,” Brynley said.

“For the last people, we ran with them for the rest of the course,” Aberle said.

Left to right, Eagle residents Will Nager, Jimmy Winn, Cutler Merlihan and Ollie Higbie. The boys competed in the 12-14 age division at the Kids Adventure Games before volunteering to help out on the course.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Eagle locals Will Nager, Jimmy Winn, Cutler Merlihan and Ollie Higbie also volunteered after competing in the 12-14 division. But after the event was over, the good workers ended up getting paid for their services, they said, so it wasn’t real volunteering.

The longest-serving volunteers at the Kids Adventure Games are the Mattisons’ children, twins Liam and Scout, who are now 19. The idea of ​​adventure games actually started with a birthday party for Liam and Scout in the Mattison’s backyard, which contained adventure racing features.

Scout said she has participated in every Kids Adventure Games competition, including every event across the country, first as a runner and then as a volunteer. Along with her partner Emma Reeder, they were known as the Cheetah Girls.

Kids sprint through mud at Kids Adventure Games Sunday in Vail. The competition featured several obstacle courses on the mountain and in the village of Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Having visited all of the sites, “Vail is one of my favorites, because it’s so big and it’s so much fun,” she said.

Usually, in the middle of their Kids Adventure Games tours across the United States, the Mattisons would work until Labor Day, but this year, with only three events on the schedule, they’re happy to finish early.

Scout said she plans to take the fall semester away from the University of Oregon, where she is a sophomore, to visit Asia and Europe with her father.

A former adventure runner himself, Billy Mattison has visited many mountain ranges around the world and is excited to share some of that travel experience now with Scout, he said.

“We are planning to go to the Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia,” he said.

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