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Family Adventure Quest: Our Ultimate Mother-son Adventure

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“I wish I could do that.”

Thus were my famous last words as my children competed in the Toyota Kids Adventure Games in Vail last summer. Now in its seventh season, these games are the only national outdoor adventure series just for kids and this year, the organizers experimented with a new race: the Family Adventure Quest. Held in the Village at Copper, this race paired one adult/teen and one child together to navigate an adventure course with zip lines, mud pits, slacklines, cargo nets, trekking, biking, water obstacles and a variety of other unique challenges.

My son Bode and I a.k.a. “Team Dominator” participated in the optional adventure-racing clinic the day prior where we fine-tuned our blow-dart, rock climbing, orienteering and mountain biking skills. The actual Quest featured two categories, a timed category for more competitive duos or a non-timed “fun run” for those looking to tackle the course without pressure. If I was a sane person, I would have signed up for the latter but the competitive waves worked better with our schedule so we found ourselves at the starting line mingling with seasoned adventure racing parents. “We’re going to have fun, right?” I reminded Bode but mostly I was trying to comfort myself that we were definitely not in it to win it.


Cargo Net

Our bib number was called and we lined up with an 8-year-old cutie wearing a sparkly helmet while her dad looked like he stepped (no, ran) off the pages of Outside magazine. That was the last time I saw them as they sprinted from the starting line toward our first obstacle about .5-mile away: Blow Darts, the perfect way for non-seasoned adventure-racing parents to gain false confidence that they could conquer the course. We blew threw it with ease (pun intended), hiked uphill to the Cargo Net and carefully navigated the obstacle before racing to the Grease Wall.

glacierclimbI took one look and knew there was no way I would be able to climb it without help. I boosted Bode up, he hoisted his leg over and teetered on the top. “Good job, Son,” the race volunteer cheered. “Now, stay up there and help pull your mom to the top.” This was sure a flattering sentiment that my 9-year-old could hoist me but reality bites. After several failed attempts at trying to pull myself up (it’s called the grease wall for a reason), I called it a no-go. Spoiler alert: This would not be my first #EpicFail that day.

We were starting to get into the rhythm of running together and next we tackled the Glacier Climb where we clung to a rope as we navigated a set of icy stairs up, across and down a massive “glacier” of snow (by far my favorite challenge).

From Ice Capades, we turned to mud where two slacklines were stretched parallel across a sizable pit.  Bode had a plan: “You lean over, grab my shoulders and I’ll grab your waist. I’ll tell you when to step.” Our synchronicity was downright inspiring as we flawlessly inched across the narrow webbing without landing in the muck.


(Tyrolean Traverse)

For the first time, I realized I was having fun even though it had started to lightly rain. We grabbed our mountain bikes to tackle the next series of challenges: we biked up a muddy trail, Bode did an American Ninja-style obstacle course involving small tunnels (that only one teammate needed to complete), we showcased our orienteering skills that led us to a hidden marker, we maneuvered across a rope suspended in the trees on the Jungle Walk and catapulted water balloons, followed by more biking adventures. 
If there was one obstacle I was worried about, it was the Tyrolean Traverse, which involved using a fixed line to cross from one point to another over the river. While wearing a harness, we clipped onto the rope to pull ourselves backwards. Bode had struggled with this challenge last year but I was pleasantly surprised when we both sailed across with ease, likely due to the slight decline in the angle.

By this point, I was feeling pretty indomitable. Sure, we weren’t winning and were getting passed up by stronger teams but were keeping a respectable pace and bonding.

Enter: The Darwin Dash.

A series of connecting foam pads were stretched out across West Lake and I blame the Spartan-racing father-son duo in front of us for my #EpicFail because they bounded across those things with the ease of kangaroos in the Outback. Bode went first, slipping, sliding and sometimes crawling but he eventually made it across. I gingerly stepped onto the mat, causing it to sink a couple of inches but I had no worries. Back in The Day, I took second place in my city’s long jump finals so I knew I had the fortitude to make the leap between pads. What I had not factored into the formula: everything else.darwin

In long jumping, you step as close to the takeoff board as you possibly can so that was the strategy I took and quickly realized the error of my ways when my foot sunk into the water, causing the rest of me to slip off. I desperately grasped the pads but I was waist-deep in water when I pulled myself out. Then panic set in: my cell phone was in my pocket. Though I had wisely left my backpack on dry land, I had forgotten about my phone. A spectator on the shore told me to toss it over to him to see if he could salvage it but I was rattled. Already down on my hands and knees, I was advised to crawl across. 

That strategy worked poorly and I narrowly made it across to the second pad. I guardedly stood up, like a baby learning to walk, and attempted another leap but my water-logged shoes slipped off the edge and I landed squarely and completely in the dunk. 

I was done. Bummed by my failure that resulted in the demise of my phone (and all our pictures from the race), I swam to shore where I met my sympathetic and sweet teammate.

“Don’t worry, Mom. That was the last obstacle. Now we run to the finish line.”

My drowned rat appearance wasn’t quite the triumphant finish I had envisioned but in the end, it didn’t matter. Participating in the Quest with my son is one memory we’ll never forget as we learned to work together on building confidence, teamwork, communication and, most importantly, having fun.

And I can’t wait to do the Kids Adventure Games’ Family Adventure Quest again next year.

Be sure to checkout my kids’ adventures last year and the fun video we pulled together here

Other Summer Copper Mountain Happenings

Summer Day Pass. The Family Adventure Quest wasn’t the only adventure you can have at Copper Mountain this summer. A Summer Day Pass ($49) offers access to the bungee trampoline, mini golf, bike haul, Diggler (a rugged scooter), scenic chair, the Bumper Boat and Hydro Bike Rentals, climbing wall, Zip Line and Summit County’s only go kart track.  Go here for hours and pricing for individual activities. copper

Woodward Copper is designed as an action sports training ground and attracts campers and top athletes from around the globe. But you don’t need to be a pro because Woodward offers Freestyle lessons starting at 6 and up, Intro and Drop in Sessions for those 8 and up, and even programs for those as young as 1 year old.

Fun Events. Copper Mountain offers family-friendly fun all summer long that includes Saturday Night Campfire & Fireworks (from June 25th – October 25th), Free Community Bike Ride series “Pedal for Pints” leaving from Center Village Sunday mornings,  FREE three-hour childcare for Kids’ Night Out for parents on the condition that $30 per child is spent in any commercial outlet, the Mac & Cheese Fest on July 16, a huge Capture the Flag fest on July 31, and the Cider Circus August 26 – 27. 

Biking and Hiking.  Copper Mountain has an extensive network of gentle (or not-so-gentle) mountain-bike descents on buffed trails down the ski hill that are also perfect for hiking. The family-friendly bike path also can be enjoyed by the far more casual rider either just to the top of Vail Pass and back (it’s a far easier trip from Copper than it is from Vail) or downhill to Frisco, and from there, Summit County’s fantastic network of bike paths branch off to Breckenridge, Dillon/Silverthorne and around the Dillon Reservoir.


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  • comment avatar Marty July 11, 2016

    I wouldn’t have made it past the blowdarts. Fun read!

  • comment avatar Amber July 11, 2016

    Marty–We passed through it quickly thanks to my teammate. It was every kid’s spitball dream. 🙂

  • comment avatar Lana July 11, 2016

    This sounds really fun. Are they going to do it again next year? There are so many races for adults and kids but rarely together.

  • comment avatar Amber July 11, 2016

    I’m hoping they’ll bring it back. The parent-child was an experiment for them. It was perfect for kids who want to try adventure racing but are unsure of themselves…or for parents and kiddos who just want to have fun together. We have memories to last a lifetime!

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