Positive self-talk leads to higher self esteem in everyone

family counseling in vailChange Your Thoughts Change You and Your Children’s Lives by Julia Kozusko, LPC

Because of children’s developing brains and lack of life experience, they are prone to becoming easily frustrated with themselves and to saying negative statements. Many a parent has heard their child say, “I can’t do it, I will never do it, or I hate myself”, etc.

We can spend time intentionally helping our children and ourselves learn to be kinder to ourselves. When children learn positive self-talk, they have higher self-esteem, less chance of depression and improved relationships. Children are not the only people that struggle with negative thoughts.

It is important that we monitor our own thoughts and self-talk, which can help us manage our anger and frustration and help us feel happier.

How do we help our children?

1) Say positive things to children at young ages such as “you tried so hard on that puzzle,” “you shared with our sister and look how good that made her feel,” and when they are older, “you helped me clean the house and are such an important part of our family” or “I have so much fun spending time with you.”

These will become their inner dialogue. Think about how powerful the positive things were that were said to you as a child, and how you may still repeat them to yourself. This can also be called specific praise, which helps improve behavior, but even more importantly becomes our children’s automatic self-talk.

2) Say positive statements about yourself. It may feel weird or uncomfortable at first, but your children will learn to compliment themselves when they hear you model this type of speech.

For example, you can say things like “I spilled that milk but I am proud of myself that I stayed calm and cleaned it up” or “I am helping my friend move and feel good about myself that I am such a good friend.” Of course, as our children get a little older, we can talk to them about saying these statements internally because others might see them as bragging.

3) Say positive statements to your spouse, partner, other family and friends. When children hear their mother say to their father, “you are such a great help to me” or a dad says to his father “you have taught me so many great things,” they witness the value of complimenting others and it again reinforces that pointing out the good things they and others do makes them feel good. On the flip side, it is crucial that we watch our self-criticism and model this for our children.

4) Don’t call your children or anyone names. “Using negative names with our children such as “you’re a tattle-tale, baby, lazy, brat, whiner, etc…” does not encourage better behavior and can often lead to children seeing themselves as this label. How many of us are still thinking of ourselves in terms of labels that were assigned to us when we were very young children? It can often teach children to call others names as well.

5) Don’t jump in too fast to correct the negative self-talk children express. When our children say “I am stupid because I couldn’t do my math” or “no one wants to be my friend,” we may be quick to tell them it’s not true and try to make them feel better.

The better option is to offer empathy rather than the quick fix first and say something like, “you feel really sad because you can’t do your math” or “you are feeling lonely because your friends haven’t called.” When children feel heard, they are able to better process their feelings and later may be able to work on improving their self-talk with our help.

Once they express themselves, we can ask “are their things in math you need help with?” or gently coach them to adjust their language, such as “can you say ‘I can’t do my math right now and I am working on getter better at it?’” We can discuss with them that the extreme language they tend to use often makes them feel worse and explore with them how they can change phrases that make them defeated into words that empower them.

How do we help ourselves?

1) Become aware of our thoughts. We often say upsetting thoughts to ourselves, which are not only unproductive but make us angry and less patient with our children. Statements such as “my child is the only one who has tantrums like this” or “I am the worst parent, I can’t handle this” are commonplace and often automatic.

2) Replace the upsetting thoughts with constructive thoughts. Phrases such as “tantrums are normal in children of this age and I am working on different strategies to manage them,” “this will pass if I work on my reactions to the tantrum” and “I am a good parent and I am getting better every day” can serve to balance the negative thoughts parents get stuck thinking.

It will certainly take practice to get out of the habit of jumping to catastrophic thinking, but it is well worth the effort. Parents can reinforce their teaching of positive self-talk to their children by saying their own constructive thoughts out loud. Gandhi said, “a man is but the product of his thoughts – what he thinks, he becomes.”

While it takes more effort to focus on improving our children’s self-talk and our own, the results are life-changing and far-reaching. When children grow up in an environment where positive self-talk is common, this becomes how they talk to themselves for the rest of their lives.

family counseling

Julia Kozusko

When we work on constantly improving our own thoughts, we become more of the parents we want to be – calmer, more understanding and happier. For more information on ways to improve relationships with your children, parent coaching, workshops and classes, contact Julia at julia@elevatedparenting.com.

Like Elevated Parenting at www.facebook.com/ElevatedParenting.


The Cycle Effect by Brett and Tam Donelson

cycling programs for girls in vailThe Cycle Effect By Shauna Farnell

Brett and Tam Donelson are building dreams, bolstering young lives one female rider at a time When Rita Gutierrez first tried mountain biking, she narrowly avoided crashing headfirst into a river. Six years later, you won’t catch the recent high school graduate going anywhere without a bike.

Gutierrez is a veteran member of The Cycle Effect, the nonprofit group founded by Edwards residents Brett and Tam Donelson. The organization’s goal is to empower and enrich the lives of teenage girls through mountain biking. It has grown 300 percent since launching in the summer 2013.

By 2016, it’s on track to double once again. With teams in Eagle, Edwards and Summit County, The Cycle Effect is comprised of about 75 girls, most from lower-income Hispanic families. It is an evolved iteration of the Donelson’s first brainchild, a smaller team of female riders from the same demographic called Ells Angels, which was run in conjunction with The Youth Foundation.

That’s how Gutierrez was initially persuaded to try biking again after that first off-putting ride. “I was terrible. I never wanted to get on a mountain bike again,” Gutierrez recalls. “But everyone else on the team was also new at it. We were all clipped into the pedals for the first time. That was a big challenge.”

Needless to say, the learning curve for Ells Angels and then Cycle Effect riders delivered many more crashes for Gutierrez and the rest of the team. But then it became obvious that the girls were not only bonding with one another but growing as people – becoming more confident, focused and dedicated not just in training and racing, but in other areas of their lives.

cycling programs for girls in vailA place for kids

“I wish I could say it was some huge master plan five years ago that I would start a nonprofit,” says Brett Donelson, who was an alpine coach at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail for many years. “I just thought, if you can help kids stay healthy and ride bikes, there’s nothing better than that. Now I really want to create a place for these kids. We’re not the Bad News Bears anymore. Yes, there’s faster kids and slower kids, but when we have the high school boys team wearing Cycle Effect trucker hats, we have to say, ‘OK, we’re onto something.’”

Training and conditioning for The Cycle Effect begins in January on Monday and Wednesday afternoons in the gym or, if the weather allows, outside. By April, the Edwards and Eagle riders get on bikes and out on the trails, beginning with basics like clipping in and out of pedals, and then learning techniques for cornering, shifting and braking.

By the time May rolls around, the short track season is in session, and the team is whittled down to the girls who really want to be there. “We see a high turnover rate at the beginning. Girls don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. They think, ‘Wait. I don’t want to get dirty,’” Donelson says. “Obviously, not every kid wants to be a mountain bike racer.” But then those who stay realize that getting dirty can lead to great things: new friends, better fitness, a fresh sense of pride and self-respect and even opportunities to go to college.

Once a rider is committed to the team, she gets a full riding kit – jersey, helmet, bike shoes, and access to a high-end bike for the race season. The Cycle Effect is funded by donations from local sponsors like the Roadhouse Hospitality Group and gear suppliers Giant, UVEX and Primal.

The rider pays an annual fee of $125 (with discounts and payment plans possible) and gets 80 days of practice and free entry to local races. Once The Cycle Effect takes effect and a rider experiences her first race, tapping into that communal well of adrenaline, the magic is contagious.

cycling programs for girls in vail“The older girls break down the barriers and the younger girls think, ‘I can do what this girl from my culture is doing.’ The whole philosophy is so much greater than just mountain biking. It’s creating dreams,” Donelson says. “Once you experience doing something really challenging and you’re successful, it’s easy to apply that to any avenue in life.” Hence The Cycle Effect’s unprecedented growth in the last three years.

Abigail Elizalde, a junior at Battle Mountain High School, is rapidly becoming a team star during her second year in the program, and her 13-year-old sister is eager to join this summer. “I’ve always liked doing sports, but I had never done mountain biking. It got me so much fitter and healthier,” 17-year-old Abigail says. “I really like how Brett started this program to help girls find themselves. It’s my little sister’s first year biking. I like showing her how to do things right. You just want to be healthier in general when you get into it. You don’t just want to eat Cheetos all the time.”

A positive path

So far, 100 percent of high school graduates involved in The Cycle Effect have gone onto college. If team members don’t keep their grades up, they’re not allowed to ride. Before they set off on rides without their coaches (there are about 12 Cycle Effect coaches, all volunteer), every girl must know how to change a flat tire.

Mike Santambrosio runs the Eagle Cycle Effect program, which added a middle school team this season, and has witnessed many personal transformations among his riders. “I’ve got a girl in her second year in Cycle Effect. She’s a 4.0 student, but very quiet, very reserved. I approached her about joining the program, and this year the transformation is ridiculous,” Santambrosio says. “She’s laughing and joking with girls in class. She’s tackled all these obstacles, and it’s made her extremely confident. She’s really coming out of her shell. The same could be said for the other returning girls. The sense of pride is fantastic. They all wear their Cycle Effect hats before races. On Facebook, they’re all blowing up about their rides and the team. It’s such a positive outlet.”

Any mountain biker can relate to this phenomenon. No matter what kind of stress one is facing in life, the sport is literally all about strength, overcoming (pedaling over) obstacles, staying balanced and focused on the path ahead. It’s about getting back in the saddle if you fall. And these days, falling doesn’t faze Cycle Effect riders like Gutierrez, who was selected from a group of 5,000 high school students across the country for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s Leadership Award and is going to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction — selecting it largely due to its proximity to great mountain bike trails.

“I can remember what it was like the first time I raced,” she recalls. “I was nervous with super sweaty palms. I was thinking the whole time if I fell, how would I get out of my clips? Now it’s so different. I think if I fall I have to get up and start running. I have to get my bike, run and get back out there.”

For more information about The Cycle Effect, visit the website www.thecycleeffect.org, email info@thecycleeffect.org or call (970) 306-7572.


A Natural Treasure

betty ford alpine gardensA Natural Treasure Located next to the children’s playground in Ford Park is Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the world’s highest alpine botanical garden, and it is truly breathtaking. Roughly 3,000 different species of alpine flora, including rare plants from the Himalayas and European Alps are spread over five acres.

There are five distinct outdoor gardens interweaved by gentle pathways, numerous waterfalls and streams; the Children’s Garden, Mountain Perennial Garden, Meditation Garden, Alpine Rock Garden and Back to Nature Trail.

Fun for kids The Children’s Garden is the perfect playing ground for young minds to begin understanding our natural world. Monday through Thursday, June 15 to August 13, the Gardens’ Learn and Grow drop-in activities delivers different environmental lessons with hands on craft projects.

The Treasure Hunt is a self-guided environmental tour, designed for the whole family to better understand our diverse mountain ecosystems. Begin by picking up the first clue at the Schoolhouse Gift Shop (open Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10am – 5pm).

Along the way, seekers see plants that flourish daily in the valley to ones that survive at the mountain tops. Immediately west of the schoolhouse is the Back to Nature Trail. Nestled on the banks of Gore Creek where kids connect with the water skipping stones, creating a fort or willow tunnel on the bank, or just simply getting close to Mother Nature.

For kids at heart A variety of programs geared towards mature audiences are offered throughout the summer. Vinyasa yoga is offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-10:15 am, June 8 – August 31. Connect with nature surrounded by the beauty of the Gardens. Seasoned yogis and complete beginners alike will find benefit in this unique experience. Classes cost $12 – personal yoga mats recommended. A series of cooking demonstrations, Chef’s in the Gardens, features Vail’s top culinary masters.

For only $5 learn how to prepare gourmet food and experience the delightful dish with a healthy sample. The demonstrations are every Thursday at 12:00pm, July 9– August 13. For an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the Gardens and our floral laboratory, Guided Tours are available on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:30 am from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Cost for the tour is $5 per person.

Really dig into the Gardens by volunteering every Monday and Thursday, 9am – 12pm from mid-May through September. Tools, gardening gloves and instruction provided. Painting and photography are also available. One you will not want to miss is on Saturday, July 25 with renowned photographer Amy Shutt. With over a decade of formal experience, Ms. Shutt specializes in outdoor photography and has taught classes with botanical gardens across the country. Call 970-476- 0103 to secure space.

Cost is $135 for members and $150 for non-members. New addition This July the Gardens unveils an addition that elevates this botanical gem to a center for environmental research and education. The Education Center & Alpine House will house interactive exhibits, a cold greenhouse to grow and display alpine plants throughout the year, and workstations for the Gardens conservation, environmental science and ornamental horticulture programs.

To celebrate, the Gardens is hosting Bluegrass in the Gardens July 1, 15, 29 and August 12. Family Friendly concerts feature national and regional bluegrass artists including Hot Buttered Rum, Grant Farms and Oteil Burbridge and Roosevelt Collier.

For detailed information and a complete list of all the Gardens has to offer, visit bettyforalpinegardens.org or call 970-476-0103.


Deck Side Dining in Vail and surrounding communities

family dining in vailDeck-side Family Dining in Vail and the surrounding Communities by LS Burns

Nothing beats a big outdoor dining space when eating out with the kids in the summertime Going out for dinner should be a treat for both parents and kids, and it really can be when the restaurant has a kid-friendly deck. Mom and dad can sit back and relax while their kids give new meaning to the term “dine and dash.” Now that’s a recipe for smiles all around.

Throw a rock from the Los Amigos deck, located at the base of Vail Mountain, and you could hit a park that has delighted generations of both local and visiting kids.

family dining in vailWalking along Bridge Street, you might hear kids clamoring to go to the Pirate Ship Park, and for good reason. It has three deck levels, climbing nets, slides and even a plank. While mom and dad sip on Riva Margaritas, older kids can run, swing, climb and make believe to their heart’s content at the playground, which is within eye and earshot.

And while parents will enjoy the burritos, enchiladas and tacos, there’s a kid’s menu with everything from chicken fingers and burgers to popsicles and ice cream bars for dessert. Before or after dinner, push the under-3 set in the shady swings that border a picturesque creek.

Blue Moose, a popular pizza joint with two locations, one in Beaver Creek and one in Lionshead, prides itself on being kid-friendly. With walls covered in art created by fifth-graders, and paper-covered tables ready for Crayola renderings of mountain life, the restaurant definitely caters to families, says Sarah Franke, a spokeswoman for the restaurant.

Opt to sit at the outdoor tables at either location so kids can play on the nearby plazas while they wait for their food. Along with pizza, of course, the kid’s menu features mac n’ cheese, noodles n’ butter and chicken nuggets (all between $5.95 and $6.95).

family dining in vailBarbecue, Mexican or ’za?

In Minturn, Kirby Cosmo’s BBQ Bar is family owned by Mark and Emily Tamberino, who have two children and intimately understand the term “family-friendly.”

Sit on the patio of the restaurant, located in a remodeled house on Minturn’s Main Street, and enjoy Minturn’s slower pace and somewhat eccentric vibe. The kid’s menu is quite affordable: $4 for a pulled pork slider or a PB&J, $5 for a grilled cheese, or $6.50 for chicken fingers and fries. If you’re in the mood for Mexican, The Minturn Saloon, just down the street from Kirby’s, boasts a patio that overlooks the Eagle River.

Mom and dad can dine on the restaurant’s specialties: including charbroiled quail or duck breasts served with the restaurant’s two homemade pepper jellies, while the kids nosh on pint-sized classics like little nachos with sour cream, tacos with beans or rice or a mini bean and cheese burrito. There’s American standards too: hot dogs, chicken tenders or barbecue ribs, all served with beans or rice.

family dining in vail and avonIn Avon, Pazzo’s is a classic family option. First off, they serve pizza, a favorite for most of the short set. There’s a nice patio to sit on during the summer, and a game room inside the restaurant if the kids get antsy waiting for their ’za. With its location at the base of Beaver Creek, 8100 in the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek has one of the prettiest deck-side views of any restaurant in the valley. The kid’s menu is both healthy and creative.

Rather than your typical PB&J, there’s the ABJ (almond butter and strawberry jam slathered on multigrain bread) and the whole- wheat quesadilla with Monterey jack cheese, guacamole and sour cream. The entrees come with a choice of steamed broccoli, a fruit cup, carrot and celery sticks or apples and yogurt. There are even kid-friendly appetizers – like warm edamame or the “lil’ dipper plate,” with carrot, cucumber, celery, romaine and buttermilk dill dressing.

Edwards eateries

Mid-valley, Zino Ristorante in Edwards has a beautiful back deck with views of the Eagle River. There’s a grassy area for little ones to toddle around on, while older kids will enjoy the bocce court. The kid’s menu includes classics like fusilli pasta with marinara, butter sauce or alfredo, or cheese pizza; and there’s slightly more sophisticated options for the pre-teen crowd: grilled chicken breast or shrimp with roasted fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts or sautéed kale.

Down the street, at Gore Range Brewery, kids love to crawl up and over the boulders surrounding the back deck. And when the family dining in vail avon eagle edwards wolcotkids get a little older, they can play in the grassy area directly across the lot from the restaurant’s front door.

A longtime Edwards staple, The Gashouse restaurant is located in a 1940s-era log cabin that was originally built as a Conoco filling station.  It’s been a log cabin diner since 1983. Inside, kids often stop to gawk at the walls covered with hunting trophies. Kid’s menu items range from the typical hamburger and fries to a half rack of barbecue ribs or even a 4-ounce filet mignon.

At e-town in Edwards, the sunny patio fills up quickly in the summer — especially on Tuesday’s Burger Nights. Laci Kirkman, an Edwards mother of three boys, visits e-town often. “The kids like the Bailee’s burger and the cheese pizza,” she says. “There are huge portions and you can sub out a healthy alternative, like veggies or fruit, instead of the fries.”

Tacorico, a newer option in Edwards Corner, is another favorite for the Kirkmans, and at times you’ll see more kids in the restaurant than adults. There are a handful of tables outside, conveniently located next door to Marble Slab Creamery. “They have super-cheap happy hour specials and a small setting,” Kirkman said. “In the summer we sit outside. My kids love the Mexican corn and tacos.”

Down-valley delight

family dining in vail avon edwards eagle

family dining in vail avon edwards eagle

Eagle resident Nicole Dewell has a few favorite restaurants when it comes time to dine out with her girls, Caroline, 12, and Lily, 10. With one of the largest decks around, The Wolcott Yacht Club is at top of her list. This is a restaurant that’s off-the-radar of many folks because of its location between Edwards and Eagle. It shouldn’t be.

“The kids always loved the outdoor space so they could move around and not feel like they were bothering anyone,” Dewell says. “Plus, they often have live music, which kids love.” The flagstone patio, lined with beautiful flowers and gardens during the summer, is a popular brunch spot on Sunday mornings. The Yacht Club hosts live music on the deck throughout the summer. Visit the website for a full lineup.

Another favorite for the Dewell family is the Back Bowl in Eagle, which has a deck facing Eagle Town Park, along the Eagle River. There are a lot of kid-friendly items on the menu, from build-your-own pizza to tater tots and cheesy fries. “The Back Bowl is fun for the kids,” she says. “With a large grassy lawn (and a) game room, you don’t even have to bowl, but that’s an option too.” With a kid-friendly play area with a play kitchen inside, and the perfect tree to climb bordering the back patio, it’s no wonder Moe’s BBQ in Eagle is so popular with families. The popular barbecue joint also offers a free kid’s meal (usually $5.50) for any child 10 and under with the purchase of an adult meal. Choose from pork, chicken or turkey sandwich or platter, or chicken fingers, grilled cheese or ribs, along with one side and a drink. Over at the Dusty Boot in Eagle, the large back patio is often filled with families. Happy kids play in the fenced-in, grassy area while their parents relax nearby under twinkling lights strung over the patio.

Cycling opportunities for families in the Vail Valley.

cycling in vail, eagle and avonTHE CYCLE OF LIFE BY SHAUNA FARNELL

Two wheels are a way of life around here, and there are many ways for kids to get involved and latch onto that lifestyle Kids who grow up in this part of Colorado are lucky. The same way they can just about be born with skis on their feet, when they’re surrounded by recreation paths, beautiful open roads and in the coming years, even Singletrack Sidewalks (at least in the town of Eagle), a knack for two-wheel transportation is a forgone conclusion.

Small children have naturally gravitated toward bicycles for decades, but these days it’s sometimes more difficult to steer them into wanting a new bike for their birthday than, say, an Apple Watch or an iPad.

The obvious way to cultivate a kid’s love for cycling (and by association, the outdoors in general) is with a Strider – one of those tiny, pedal-less push bikes that teach two-wheeled balance to riders between the ages of 18 months and 5 years, allowing many to skip training wheels altogether.

As you’re strolling along the sidewalk or recreation path, plop your toddler onto a Strider (with helmet on, of course) and he or she will organically learn how to ride. The transition to bikes with pedals, brakes and gears, is an opportune time to seal the deal for a kid’s love of pedaling and, luckily, there are lots of helping hands for that around here.

biking for kids in vailEagle

There’s a reason that the Colorado High School Cycling League state mountain bike championships are held here and that it’s become the first town in the world to build singletracks for sidewalks. Mountain biking is kind of a big deal in Eagle.

Mike McCormack, who was pivotal in getting Eagle’s Singletrack Sidewalks efforts off the ground and who also helped launched the Mountain Bike Little League program in Summit County many years ago, knew the benefits of introducing kids to biking long before his own 6 and 8-year-old sons became avid cyclists.

Three years ago he started Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy, which, among other things, offers comprehensive mountain bike summer camps teaching 7 to 13-year-olds how to ride dirt and also the importance of environmental stewardship. “It’s like daycare with a purpose,” McCormack says of the camps. “They get a curriculum, exercise, and an appreciation for the outdoors. You can really use mountain biking to mind meld these little critters in many positive ways.”

Although the Singletrack Sidewalks are not yet completed, Eagle is, in general, the county’s No. 1 place for family mountain biking, with its miles of wide trails and singletrack over rolling high desert terrain (as opposed to long slogs up mountains in most other mountain biking areas east of Eagle). There is trailhead parking in Eagle Ranch or at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink, and a comprehensive trail map at www.mountainbikeeagle.com.

cycling in vail for kidsEagle BMX

As most locals are probably aware, there is a sweet, USA BMX-sanctioned dirt track, complete with start gate, rollers, high- bank turns and berms, right next to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. Although it gets busy with riders of all ages – some practicing for races (which happen every Thursday throughout the summer) and others just feeling it out themselves –it’s a good place to get acquainted with the idea of riding on dirt.

The track even hosts Strider races on Saturdays. There is a lot of opportunity for dirt lovers who want to stick with the small bikes. Check out the rules of the track and race schedule at www.eaglecountybmx.com

Easy family rides

In addition to the BMX track in Eagle and the area’s many miles of rolling trails, thanks to the elbow grease of the young ladies of The Cycle Effect (see related story), Eagle-Vail will soon be home to its own brand new pump track, a small dirt loop with jumps and rollers, geared toward mountain bikes rather than BMX.

The track will be open to riders of all ages and ability levels and presents a great opportunity to familiarize oneself with the feeling of mountain biking over obstacles and around curves without too much gravity to contend with.

As far as pavement, there are, of course, the multitude of recreation paths stretching between East Vail and Gypsum, offering a prime place for toddlers to learn on pushbikes and for families to build up their out-and-bike mileage. Be sure to stay to the right of the path at all times in order to make way for fast-moving cyclists and other recreationists.

cycling in vail for kidsOnce everyone is comfortable on dirt and knows the intricacies of climbing, descending, braking and shifting, the family might be ready to gain some elevation on dirt. There are several gradual climbs on wide dirt roads accessible from the Berry Creek trailhead in Edwards. The bumpy and cracked but wide dirt road up Meadow Mountain in Minturn will ramp up the lung capacity at least one more notch.

At Beaver Creek, Village to Village trail is a fantastic introduction to on-mountain riding since it is much wider and more gradual than other resort trails … but it does require some uphill pedaling to get there (up the service road or down from the top if hauling bikes up Centennial Express chairlift).

On Vail Mountain, it’s possible to reach the Eagle’s Nest downhill easily via bike hauls on the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead (or if the family is up for it, via the rewarding, six-mile slog up the service road). None of the Vail Mountain singletrack is easy per se, but once dirt skills are dialed on the pump track or BMX course, Radio Flyer and Big Mamba trails are thrilling options.

And high atop the Wildridge neighborhood north of Avon there’s a great new beginner trail called Our Backyard that will thrill and challenge young riders. It’s a .89-mile loop of single-track with very manageable grades ranging between 5 and 15 percent. “It’s like a rollercoaster,” says Max Williams, an 11-year-old Avon resident. “You have to work a little uphill but then you get to go down really fast. It’s really fun.”

Our Backyard is part of a system of beginner, moderate and expert single-track trails in the West Avon Preserve that was purchased and set aside as open space by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. There’s free parking at multiple trailheads but will require a bike rack to get you and your young riders to the top of the steep Wildridge subdivision.

The views of Beaver Creek, Arrowhead and the Sawatch Mountains are well worth the effort. Take the main Wildridge Road to the top of Wildridge, head left on Old Trail Road, left on Saddleridge Loop and then right on Beaver Creek Point Road to the Beaver Creek Point Trailhead.

cycling in vail for kidsCompetitions for everyone

It’s not necessary to possess competitive genes to partake in local races (until you enter the adult sport or expert race categories, where the fun is mixed with a solid dose of cutthroat). In addition to the weekly race events, including Strider races for toddlers on the BMX track in Eagle, the Vail Recreation District offers ample opportunities for pedalers of all ages and ability levels to compete in short track and mountain bike races, with events every week from spring to fall.

The short track races are open to children age 6 and older and typically only last five to 10 minutes, involving mostly flat dirt terrain. The mountain bike races are midweek mini social extravaganzas for participants of all ages. Not only are they the place to see and be seen for every active two-wheeler in the valley, but the children’s competitions have become the highlight of the week for young cyclists — the highlight of the summer, in some cases. “Kids participation in the mountain bike series grew 55 percent between 2013 and 2015, and I anticipate that trend to continue,” says VRD mountain bike race director Beth Pappas. “Biking is a lifelong sport that they can enjoy in many forms for years to come. The younger they get involved, the better to teach good habits like riding etiquette and trail/environmental stewardship.”

The local VRD mountain bike races always take place on Wednesday afternoons/evenings from May 27 to Aug. 26 at a different venue every week. The children’s course is between one and three miles long and is designed to be ridden in 20 to 25 minutes. For more information on the series, visit vailrec.com.

Competitive teen opportunities

Is your kid clearly on his or her way to becoming a world cycling or mountain biking champion? In addition to the one-of-a-kind opportunity for pre-teen and teenage girls that The Cycle Effect represents (see related story), the Vail Valley Junior

Cycling Team is an incredible resource for teenage boys and girls who display an obvious aptitude for competitive pedaling. Originally dubbed Street Swell Cycling when the long board company’s owner, John Cummins, wanted to sponsor a few local athletes as they began competing on high school teams, Street Swell now partners with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail as the Vail Valley Junior Cycling Team.

Open to 14 to 18-year-olds, the team is comprised of at least 50 riders from Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley high schools, the Ski and Snowboard Academy and Vail Mountain School. They all wear matching racing kits and meet several times a week for group road and mountain bike rides and to compete in all of the local races and even some state and national competitions.

Coached by local pros, the objective is to help young riders become seasoned competitors. As evidenced by the 700 individuals that landed in Eagle last fall to compete in the Colorado High School Cycling League state mountain bike championships (up nearly 30 percent from the previous year’s turnout), there is a real need for speed. “The goal is to send some kids to Nationals,” Cummins says. “I really have seen a lot of growth. The development of the statewide high school series has been a huge part of that. It’s amazing living in Colorado and to try to count how many kids are not involved in cycling, somehow, some way. We have some athletes that are quite good.”

High-altitude race camp

Pedal Power Bike Shop and Leadville Racing will hold a high-altitude mountain bike race camp June 14-17 on the Leadville campus of Colorado Mountain College – the highest college campus in the nation. The camp is specifically geared toward young riders looking to improve their racing technique and hone their competitive edge. Geared toward all levels, young racers learn how to train for competitive racing surrounded by the 14,000-foot peaks of the Sawatch and Mosquito ranges in the heart of the Rockies.

Camp participants will learn from professional riders as well as coaches from the highly successful Leadville Racing high school team. As head coach for Leadville High School’s race team, Pedal Power owner and race camp director Bruce Kelly has been a part of competitive high school bike racing since its inception. As he watched it gain popularity and the level of competition rise, he saw the need for more organized training methods.

With that goal in mind, he has assembled some of the most successful bike and endurance racers from the region to help develop and implement this program. Fellow coaches include Tokyo Joe’s professional racers Gretchen Reeves and Jay Henry, along with Pedal Power team members Adam Plummer and Stacey Kelly.

Kelly is also an assistant coach with Leadville Racing. Between them they bring a combined century of professional bike and endurance racing expertise to the camp.

For more information or to register call (970) 845-0931 or go to www.pedalpowerbike.com. Or register directly at the CMC website at https://webadvisor.coloradomtn.edu.

Free clinics, pint-sized bikes and something for mom

Venture Sports offers rental discounts for Vail Mountain Bike Camps and it also supplies ample equipment for young riders, including Striders, kid-sized Camelbacks, clothes and helmets, children’s mountain bikes with 24-inch tires, and even kid-fitted road bikes that can be rented or demoed.

“I think we’re the only shop in the valley to sell kids road bikes,” says Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh. “If you have a 10- year-old kid who wants a road bike, oftentimes all you have is a $3,000 custom-made option. We have junior road bikes that are considerably more affordable.” Venture also hosts the new Vail Valley Vixens women’s cycling club, a group of women of all ability levels that meets for weekly group rides and warmly follows a “no-drop” policy, meaning that nobody gets left behind.

“Needless to say there’s lots of moms in that,” Brumbaugh says. “We have people who are hardcore, racing Ironmans and Nationals, and people who have literally never ridden a bike more than two miles. If you don’t know the difference between the rear brake and front brake, you’ll have someone show you the ropes.”

To become a member (it’s $35 and includes Venture discounts), visit www.vailvalleyvixens.com.

Ensuring that everyone in the family knows how to change a flat tire is kind of important. Venture Sports offers free clinics pertaining to repairs and all things cycling at 5:30 p.m. on June 9, July 14 and Aug. 11. Venture also hosts group mountain and road rides for adults, open to all ability levels and free to the public. They meet at 5:15 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 14 at the Northside restaurant parking lot in Avon.

For more information on clinics or group rides, visit avonventuresports.com or call (970) 949-1318.

Cycling by the Numbers

The cost of camps and competition Eagle Mountain bike camps: Vail Valley Alternative Sports Academy mountain bike camps in Eagle: six-day sessions in June and July for 7 to 12-year-olds. Camps cover everything from how to shift gears, rules of the trail, technique and fixing flats. $99. Go to www.vvasa.org.

High-altitude mountain bike camp: Pedal Power and Leadville Racing present their new high-altitude mountain bike camp June 14-17 on the CMC Campus in Leadville. Cost is $375 and includes the camp, all meals and lodging at the CMC Timberline Campus dormitories. Call (970) 845-0931, go to www.pedalpowerbike.com or register directly at the CMC website at https://webadvisor.coloradomtn.edu.

BMX camps: Basic BMX camps: six-day sessions for 5 to 12-year-olds on the track in June and July. $99. Or four-day race camp: consecutive days on the track, preparing for competition for 5 to 13-year-olds. $99. Go to wecmrd.org.

Vail Valley Junior Cycling Team: This is a competitive mountain bike team for 14 to 18-year-old riders that meets several times a week, competes in all of the local races as well as a few statewide and national competitions. Price for the summer program (includes races and 70 to 80 sessions) is $950. The fall high school training/racing program is $450. Go www.skiclubvail.org or call (970) 476-5119.

Vail Recreation District races: Mountain bike races on Wednesdays from May to mid-August. Kids are $10 per race in advance, $15 on race day or $60 for the entire 7-race series. Races are at a different venue in the valley and kid’s courses are 1 to 3 miles in length, taking 20 to 35 minutes. Go to www.vailrec.com.


Day trip to Summit County

summit county family activitiesDaytrip: Summit County By Shauna Farnell

In the same spirit as the Vail Valleys seemingly endless ski-town offerings of summertime family fun, nearby Summit County is equally equipped to serve up overflowing days of adventure and exploration. In addition to a change of scenery, Summit County offers certain summertime opportunities not found in our fair valley or in many other places, for that matter.

A half hour from Vail, Summit County has plenty of mountains and ski resorts, but Lake Dillon and its shores present a slew of fresh options. And then there the areas exciting mining history to explore. To pack as much as possible into a day trip east of Vail Pass, here are some kid-tested, parent-approved ways to spend a full day in Summit County.


The Butterhorn Bakery on Frisco’s Main Street has been around for decades and is pretty special for diners of all ages with its gamut of fresh, homemade breads, muffins and pastries. It goes out of its way to ensure that kids develop a taste for fresh baked goods with its affordable children’s menu that offers a couple of varieties of French toast (made with either cinnamon fruit bread or multi-grain), scrambled eggs or the standout Mouse Cake with powdered sugar, fruit and whipped cream.

Go to www.butterhornbakery.com or call (970) 668-3997.

Pedaling, picnicking at the Frisco bike park.

Head up Highway 9 to the Frisco Adventure Park. You’ve been wanting your kid to get into mountain biking but have been a bit afraid to introduce him/her to the overwhelming force of gravity that comes with flying down a narrow trail zigzagging across a ski slope.

The Adventure Park, which doubles as a tubing hill and Nordic area in the winter, is home to four free bike courses open every day of the summer. The pump track allows bikers of all levels and ages to pedal over rollers and berms on relatively flat, open ground. It’s a great way to learn shifting, braking and cornering techniques.

From there, you can move onto the dirt jump or slopestyle course, or get competitive on the dual slalom track. Then pack up your sandwiches and head down one of the peninsula’s rolling singletracks or dirt roads ending at the lakeshore. There are sandy spots and breathtaking panoramas perfect for a picnic.

Go to www.townoffrisco.com or call (970) 668-2558.

Breck alpine coaster, slides and zipline With the family cardio capabilities maxed out for the day, how about a less strenuous route to the next adrenaline rush?

Drive 12 minutes to Breckenridge and take the gondola to Peak 8 for the thrill of charging down the mountain on the Gold Runner Coaster. Smaller tykes can ride with you on the self- controlled carts, which fly down the half-mile track of curves, dips and twists.

For a similar rush, tear down one of three alpine slides, all of which wind through fields of wildflowers on rolling sleds at full throttle or at a more leisurely, smell-the-roses pace. To ramp up the heart rate a little more and leave the speed up to gravity, try the TenMile Flyer Zipline. Strap onto the cable 1,500 feet up the mountain and soar 50 feet over the grassy slopes reaching speeds of 45 mph as the pine trees become a colorful blur.

Go to www.breckenridge.com or call (970) 496-4700.

History lesson

One huge draw of towns like Frisco and Breckenridge that set them apart from Vail is that long before ski tourism took over, people flocked to the area for a more materialistic lure. There was at one time lots and lots of gold in them thar hills. In Breckenridge, the best way for families to learn about the area’s mining legacy is to travel headlong into a mineshaft, where every one of your senses can experience what it was like to be a Colorado miner more than 100 years ago.

Dating back to 1887, Country Boy Mine just outside of Breckenridge offers 45- minute mine tours down a deep mining tunnel. Learn about the gold that was found in the area, the techniques and tools involved and the kooky characters who earned their fame in the Old West. The tours wrap up with an actual gold-panning session.

Go to www.countryboymine.com or call (970) 453-4405.

Keystone a kiddy wonderland

Next up is another quick drive, taking the shortcut from Breck over Swan Mountain into Keystone, less than 30 minutes away. Most parents are already aware of the wintertime hub of activity Keystone offers for pint-sized guests, so it’s no surprise that in the summer the resort is a festival of crafts, bouncy castles and kid-specific fun.

The Keystone Pond is a peaceful place to spend late afternoon, particularly on a paddleboat or kayak. There’s also a tree house to explore and a huge indoor arcade with free wii rentals. The Kidtopia Play Park, complete with bounce house and bungee trampoline, is just down the road in River Run Village.


Keystone is also the county’s best place to be for dinner, since the resort is home to a handful of Colorado’s No. 1 dining options. The cozy Ski Tip Lodge offers exquisite, seasonally changing four-course meals that finish with dessert in front of the fireplace.

There’s also Keystone Ranch, with its farm-to- table-fresh fare and four-course specials for children in the rustic but elegant setting of a 1930s homestead. Or there are on-the-mountain dining options, involving a scenic ride up two gondolas, for family-style fondue at Der Fondue Chessel or the AAA Four-Diamond-rated Alpenglow Stube.

For a more casual and adventurous option, sign up for a Wagon Dinner and take a horse-drawn wagon from Keystone Stables through the grassy meadows of Soda Creek for a 30-minute scenic ride to a barbecue dinner outdoors. The grub is grilled chicken, smoked ribs, corn on the cob and apple pie for dessert, and the soundtrack is cowboy-style live guitar.

Call (800) 354-4386 or go to www.keystoneresort.com


Kids Adventure Games in Vail

kids adventures games in vailKids Adventure Games: Born in Vail, now a national hit By Pepper York

Challenge your child this summer in the ‘coolest adventure obstacle race on the planet’ From being a semi-professional adventure athlete to the adventure of being a dad, Billy Mattison melded these two passions and is the proud founder, along with his wife Hélène, of the Kids Adventure Games.

The first adventure race was his twins’ birthday party, where three- and four-year-old kids climbed ladders, swung on ropes, jumped over stumps – they were kids being kids. As the years went by, the birthday became bigger and bigger with longer courses and more challenging adventures.

kids adventure gamesThis being Vail, their birthday-party tradition soon grew and morphed and burgeoned into a “real” race. So real that in 2014 the Mattison family hit the road and made it a cross-country adventure race series. In Vail alone there were 366 teams with 732 participants over three days of competition last year.

“Everybody thought so highly of it I decided to go to the Vail Rec District; they loved it,” Mattison says. “It doubled the race in size each year. Kids, the town, parents, they all loved it. Everybody said, ‘You should take this on the road.’ Last year was the first year of doing a big tour. We had a great summer.” The kids who participate in the race also had a great summer, taking on challenges like slacklining over mud pits, tubing down a creek, hunting with blow-dart guns, hiking underground rivers, and, most popular, a slip-and-slide that sends kids splooshing into a big pool at the bottom.

It’s all a sneaky way to get kids to work together, get exercise, challenge themselves and, of course, have fun. The race is open to kids ages 6 to 14, with an anticipated 1,000 kids testing their skills in Vail Aug. 5-9 this year. “It’s definitely my favorite race I’ve done so far,” says Eli Howard, a Vail 9-year-old who has done the race three years and counting. “It’s very fun, there’s never a limit. My favorite part is getting to ride my bike from challenge to challenge. But my favorite challenge is the Tyrolean traverse.” The Tyrolean traverse, for those who’ve never done the course, is no simple thing. It’s described as a method of crossing through free space between two high points on a rope without a hanging cart or cart equivalent.

kids adventures games in vailAccording to Wikipedia, “This is used in a range of mountaineering activities: rock climbing, technical tree climbing, caving, water crossings and mountain rescue.” Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Ha. It’s similar at the Adventure Games, but more of a zipline. Still challenging, huh? Although all the courses have similar challenges, each venue and race is unique. They are similar but very different, Mattison says. They really let the area determine the obstacles.

“We look around and see what it’s got to offer. In Vermont, there were big trees blown down in a storm. They became great balance beams through a swamp,” Mattison says. “When we get there, we walk around and see what the place has to offer. The sky’s the limit.” Each year the courses and races are slightly different, too, Mattison says. As if ziplining and rock climbing aren’t challenging enough, he wants to keep the kids guessing. “We like to add and subtract things that don’t work. Every year we try to mix it up a little,” he says.

The only requirement is that the obstacle should be something kids will like. The challenges sound grueling and a little scary… but they’ve got you covered there too, with four optional skills clinics offered before the race day. There’s rock climbing, mountain biking, teamwork and adventure racing 101. But as we all know, kids are tougher than adults, and seem to have far less fear.

kids adventure games in vailMore than likely, these kids have been out mountain biking, summiting mountains and rafting rivers since they were born. A kid’s life in Vail is anything but sedentary, after all. (All skills clinics are capped at 100 participants and have sold out in the past.) Who’s to say kids are the only ones who get to have fun?

The Vail Recreation District and the Mattisons are always adding to the weekend – how does a family fun mud run sound? The inaugural event had more than 300 runners slop their way through a muddy trail run. Now that this is a nationwide event, the Mattisons are on the road most of the summer. And the twins have a very important job – they have to test the courses. “They are good course testers. It’s good to have them around to time it and see if there are any flaws in the system. We’re kind of like a carny family, hitting the blue highways,” Mattison says with a laugh. “We’ve got the inflatable pool for the slip and slide. We have big trailers – it’s like when the circus comes to town.” A new-kind of ultra-fit carny family indeed.

kids adventure games in vailSidebar * On the road again * * If you’re not going to be in Vail for this year’s race Aug. 5-9, check out these other dates and locations: * * June 19-20, Snowbird, Utah * * June 26-27, Squaw Valley, Calif. * * July 10-11, Trapp Family Lodge, Vt. * * July 17-18, Snowshoe Resort, W.V. * * Aug. 21-22, Mammoth, Calif. * * Aug. 28-29, Big Sky, Mont. * * Sept. 5-6, Sun Valley, Idaho * * www.kidsadventuregames.com * * * *


There are a variety of obstacles over the three-mile course that will take kids anywhere from a little less than one to two hours to complete. Kids will be tested – hiking up steep hills, biking singletrack and working with their partner. If your child seems interested, better sign up right away. The race has sold out every year and is on track to do the same this year. Teams can be coed and racers can be of different ages – they will compete in the older age group. This is a team event, so two partners are needed to complete the registration.

Parents are welcome to go on course, but must refrain from helping their child. The course has plenty of marshals to assist if needed. Dress for success: have kids wear appropriate moisture-wicking clothing, good running shoes that will get wet and a helmet and bike gloves, as well as a lightweight rain jacket, but these games go on rain or shine.

Go to www.kidsadventuregames.com, email info@kidsadventuregames.com or call Hélène Mattison at (970) 401-3804 for more information or to volunteer.

Where to swim in Vail and Eagle County

swimming pools in vail and eagle countyDIVE IN by LS Burns How to get landlocked mountain kids comfortable in the water in Eagle County

Getting mountain kids acclimated to aquatic environments can be challenging in a place covered by snow seven months of the year, but thankfully there are a handful of both indoor and outdoor public swimming pool options available in Eagle County.

Tiffany Oetting thinks about water when she thinks back on her childhood growing up near Michigan’s Great Lakes. “I can remember as a child always being in the pool or lake nonstop and loving it,” says Oetting, who lives in Edwards with her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Chloe. “My parents put my brother and me in swim lessons at a very young age. This helped us to learn to save ourselves if we were ever in a situation involving water and taught us to not be afraid of the water.”

Oetting wants the same for Chloe, who she took swimming for the first time when she was 5 months old. Now, as a toddler, Chloe loves pool time. Nearly every Friday the Oettings have a mommy-daughter date at the Avon Rec Center pool. “She really is a little fish when it comes to the water, and just loves it,” Oetting says. “When she was really little I would dunk her under the water to get her used to getting her face wet. And now when she goes under she has learned to blow water out of her nose and not to breathe or drink the water.”

Now Chloe, though only 15 months old, is very comfortable around water. “I just love the fact that she isn’t afraid of the water. She’s even started to want to slide down the little water slides they have at the pool,” Oetting says. Getting mountain kids acclimated to aquatic environments can be challenging in a place covered by snow seven months of the year, but thankfully there are a handful of both indoor and outdoor public swimming pool options available in Eagle County.

From toddlers to tweens

For Oetting and many others, the Avon Rec Center facility is extremely kid-friendly, with features that appeal to the little swimmers, like smaller slides, fun animal character sprayers, bubblers and fountains, all in a pool that’s kept around 90 degrees to prevent those little teeth from chattering.

Plus, there are features the tween set will dub cool, like a 140-foot water slide and an AquaClimb climbing wall where both kids and adults can practice their climbing techniques, with a fun splash back into the pool when finished. “The way their kiddie pool is set up is perfect for all ages,” Oetting says. “It’s a graduated pool with fun water animals, water slides and even a tiny lazy river for toddlers to enjoy. Chloe has been going to this pool even before she could walk and just loved crawling everywhere in it and just enjoying the warm water. It has a large pool area and water slide for when she’s older.”

Hours of fun

Speaking of fun pool features, the outdoor Gypsum Creek Pool, which is managed by the Western Eagle County Metropolitan District and located at the Gypsum Creek Golf Club, has a Witbits Fast Track that’s new this year. The 62-foot floating obstacle course is for children 42 inches or taller, and adults too.

swimming pools in vail and eagle countyIt can be used by individuals or for competition, says WECMRD aquatics director James Schultz. “The course starts off with a wiggle bridge with six round discs, some of which flip and some don’t, and ends with hurdles where you try to jump from hurdle to hurdle,” Schultz says. “The goal is to go end to end without falling off.”

The town of Gypsum and WECMRD chose the Witbits because it “builds balance, coordination and motor skills in children,” plus it equates to “hours of fun,” Schultz adds. The Gypsum Creek Pool is one of three outdoor public swimming pools in Eagle County that’s open in the summer. Guests can order food from the Creek Side Grill and eat poolside, Schultz says.

There’s also a small toddler pool that is a 1.5 feet deep and kept at 89 degrees. “Most of the guests who come to the Gypsum Creek Pool like to relax and hang out with their children,” Schultz says. Up valley, the Eagle-Vail Pool is another outdoor swimming pool option open from mid-May through Labor Day each summer. Along with a water slide and a zero entry kid’s pool with spray features, there are other amenities that make it pretty attractive to families. Bring lunch or dinner over to the pool and cook on the free barbecue grills (there are even tools) and then dine at the picnic tables with sun umbrellas.

When kids need a break from the water, there’s a large grassy area where they can play. It’s worth mentioning that the pool uses a salt water, ozone and solar system for heating and sanitizing the pool. The pool offers a full array of classes — everything from private swim lessons and water aerobics to baby and me classes.

With the exception of Gypsum Creek, each of the public pools offer swimming lessons. Contact each pool for individual schedules and prices. Six months of age is around the time Schultz recommends taking your child swimming for the first time. When it comes to getting kids comfortable in the water, it’s important to make it fun.

“The best thing to do is play with your kids in the water, one on one,” Schultz says. “Sit on the edge and talk about it. Splash a little water on them so they get used to it.” WECMRD offers parent-child swim classes for children age 6 months to 3 years old year-round at the Gypsum Rec Center and during the summer at the Eagle Pool.

Swimming lessons begin at age 3 with the tadpoles class and continue on. The classes focus on skills like kicking and blowing bubbles and teach parents about child safety and the proper way to enter and exit the water. “Parents go away with skills and games they can do with their kids in the water,” Schultz says. “It’s all about trying to get the kids comfortable in the water.”

Your Best Bets to Get Wet in Eagle County

• Eagle Pool and Ice Rink (outdoor): 1700 Bull Pasture Road in Eagle; (970) 328-5277 and www.wecmrd.org. Hours: The pool opens for the season on May 29 and closes Aug. 30. Call for hours. Family-friendly features: The pool has a walk-in entry for children and a frog slide, as well as a large grass area for lounging near the pool. There’s also a climbing wall, a water slide, a vortex and more. Cost: $5 for kids and $7 for adults. Summer pool passes available.

• Gypsum Rec Center pool: 52 Lundgren Boulevard, Gypsum; (970) 777-8888 and www.wecmrd.org. Hours: Summer hours begin June 1. Call for hours. Family-friendly features: There’s a walk-in entry for kids, a spray feature, lazy river and two water slides. The pool is kept 87- degrees year-round. Swim lessons are offered Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Cost: $5 for kids and $7 for adults. Summer pool passes available.

• Gypsum Creek Pool (outdoor): 530A Cotton Ranch Pool (at the Gypsum Creek Golf Course), Gypsum; (970) 777-8888. Hours: Monday-Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. daily from June 1-Aug. 10. Family-friendly features: New this year, this pool has a Fast Track by Wibits, an inflatable obstacle course that floats atop the water. The pool is kept at 85 degrees. Cost: $5 for kids and $7 for adults.

• Avon Recreation Center: 90 Lake Street, Avon; (970) 748-4060, www.avon.org. Hours: Open swim is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Aquatic features are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. Family-friendly features: There’s an Aquaclimb Climbing wall, 140-foot water slide and a lazy river. The slide pool is kept between 90 and 92 degrees. Zero-depth entry in the kid’s pool and fun animal character sprayers, bubblers, fountains and age- appropriate slides. Cost: Avon residents are $12 for adults, $8 for youth or seniors; non-residents are $14 for adults, $10 for youth or seniors; kids age 2 and under are free.

• Eagle-Vail Swimming Pool (outdoor): 450 Eagle Road, Eagle-Vail; (970) 949-1203 and www.eaglevail.org/pool. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from mid-May through Labor Day. Family-friendly features: There’s a special beach entry kid pool with spray features heated to 90 degrees. Enjoy a water slide, free barbecue grills for public use, picnic tables and sun umbrellas, a large grassy area, snack food and lifejacket rentals. Cost: Eagle-Vail residents are $9 for adults, $7 for youth; non-residents are $12 for adults, $10 for youth.


Shopping for kids in Vail

kids shopping in vail candy storesShop Talk by Heather Hower

I am not much of a shopper. My 9-year-old daughter on the other hand gets an obvious rush from shopping. She waxes enthusiastically about trying on clothes, sorting through the ‘yes’ pile and getting a few new outfits.

In the dressing room she lunges and squats, jumps around to make sure everything fits just right. She’s not the type to save an outfit for later. She usually wears it right out of the store, or at the very latest, the next day.

She’s a tomboy to boot but there’s something about the transformative powers of clothes. I can see her picturing herself at school in a new dress or on the playground in different shoes. As most any woman can attest, a new outfit can create a new attitude. And lucky for us, Eagle County has some fabulous shopping options.

We tracked down some of the favorite places for the younger set. There’s everything from running shoes to party dresses, toy stops to sweet shops. Warning – don’t try to do this all in one day. There’s just too many options. KidSport in Vail is a one-stop shop for kids, teens and tweens. The owners travel almost three months of the year finding fancy to rad, not only what’s cool to parents, but what kids must have.

shopping for kids in vailThe store, used to be known for its gear and brands like Patagonia, Spyder, Burton and Obermeyer, has a softer side with its boutique offerings. “We have a strong boutique side of our business,” says Eric Belyea, co-owner with his wife, Michelle. “We have higher-end brands that are absolutely beautiful. We carry Splendid and Ella Moss, two very popular women’s brands that we carry in kids.”

You can’t help but swoon a little when your ‘little’ girl comes out in a twirly, light-as-air Ella Moss dress. Add to her look with a sumptuous cashmere sweater and fun leggings from Zara Tarez. Shopping might be a girl’s favorite past time but that doesn’t mean boys want to miss out on the fun.

More and more, boys want to be as stylie as their sisters, and they can be just as, if not more so, particular. Besides the popular surf brands – think Volcom, O’Neill and Billabong – KidSport goes a little deeper. “Appaman is a fun, cool, trendy type-of-deal,” Eric says. “We have casual shorts to collared shirts.”

The kids are decked out, that doesn’t mean you’re done yet. This is where your kids’ mouths will really start watering: electric skateboards, skateboards with LED lights, orbit wheels, Sbykes (pedal scooters) and scooter and kick bikes. “Our whole concept is outfitting the active kid,” Eric says. “Whatever toys or accessories we carry, it’s about being outdoors, being active. Even the books we carry are about using your mind, using your hands. We don’t want a sedentary kid, it’s what we are built on.”

shoping for kids in vail candy storesWhat kid can sit around when there is a Sbyke calling? For the uninitiated, it rides like a scooter but pedals like a bike. “It’s almost a cross between a scooter, a bike and a unicycle. It’s a real unique product,” says Eric, as if he needs to explain. Rounding out the offerings, KidSport has the pads, helmets, hats, socks, sunglasses and even water bottles to keep everyone happy and hydrated.

KidSport runs the gamut from sensible shoes to cashmere sweaters, scooters and padded bike shorts. Being stylish and ready for adventure never looked so good.

Global Design, Local Find

For the moms who have shopped at Perch, one of Vail’s hottest stores, their mini-mes now have the option to be just as stylish thanks to owners Laurie O’Connell, Kerry Roach and Jill Alfond.

Laurie explains Skipper & Scout fills a specific niche: for the fashionable woman with a modern lifestyle – this woman is not trendy, she has an appreciation for high quality and premium brands. And most of all, after she shopped at Perch, she wanted to find comparable brands for her daughter. “It’s about the modern mom and the brands we carry,” Laurie says. “These are the clothes that support her lifestyle year-round. It’s more fashion and style. “It’s been very well received. There was a customer out there who wasn’t finding what she wanted in Vail and people were very excited to find these brands in Vail. Now they can walk across the street [from Perch] to get their kids clothing.”

shopping for kids in vailThe store carries, for example, Stella McCartney, who, Laurie says, is a global designer sought after in New York, Europe and South America. “There’s an appetite for that level of clothing in Vail, it’s very fun.” Skipper & Scout carries lines from baby up to size 14. Kids will be well outfitted, it’s not stuffy clothing – the clothes are designed with the active child in mind and are positively swoon-worthy, whether a brightly colored frock, chambray romper or Euro- inspired shorts.

The clothes are surely fashionable but are not for the sedentary – this is Vail, after all. Take, for instance, Native shoes that are designed for the beach – or in our case, the fountains and streams throughout the village. Then there’s Marc Jacobs or Milly for special occasion dresses: Fashion that’s functional, accessible and appreciated. “It’s more about the quality, unique, hard-to-find product, the special product,” Laurie enthuses. “Fashion is fun and should generate an emotion. You want your customer to get excited about the product.”

And if the number of kids swarming the store is any indication, the customers do indeed get excited about the product, from the make-it-yourself watches, specially picked books, magic cards, doodle books, girlie trucker hats, in every nook and cranny there is something special, unique and fun.

On the off chance the kids aren’t enthralled with all the store offers, they can grab a soccer ball and hit the turf that’s on the rink out front.

candy stores in vailLike a Kid in a Candy Store

Exhaustion can set in after a few hours of shopping – but there’s a cure for that and a product sure to get kids excited – candy. There’s Fuzziwigs in Vail Village near the Children’s Fountain. It’s stocked with chocolate, penny candy, rock candy – any kind of sweet you or your kid can dream about.

Further down valley, there’s the brand new Sugar Bar, a 1,000-square-foot store flooded with natural light and enough confections to cure any size sweet tooth. Owner Nancy Tellor opened the store last September and has been in the throes of making it a must-stop for kids of every age – and their parents of course.

Nancy has the perfect focus group – she’s a mother of four, so she knows a thing or two about candy favorites. A few bucks goes a long way here. But be warned, spending that few bucks could take a few hours! The Sugar Bar has 30 bins of quarter candy, another section for candy under a dollar, then the favorites: Jelly Bellies, Hot Tamales, Sweet and Sour, gum, fun dip, licorice, sour candy and a lot of gummies.

“Kids come in and do a lap all around the store to see what they want,” Nancy says with a laugh. There’s tables set up indoors in the winter so parents can chill out while the kids find just the right piece of candy. There’s a couple of screens playing movies, so kids can chill out too. “It’s a place to celebrate and hang out, it’s something different in the valley.”

Nancy stocks the kids’ favorites – anything super sour and fruity. A hot seller is the Quattro Sour Power Belt, which is a very sour long gummy strip in tons of colors. Yikes! Besides candy (who else needs candy?), there’s gelato, hot chocolate, Avery soda, Japanese marble sodas, Coke with real sugar and mother’s little helper: coffee.

Later this summer, the staff at the Sugar Bar will be hosting parties where kids can make their own gelato or cupcakes, fill their candy bags and wile away the afternoon in a sugar daze.

shopping vail kidsActively Outfitted

After the sugar rush hits, there’s time for more shopping at Ptarmigan Sports just down from the Sugar Bar.

This outdoor- inspired store carries myriad of brands for the outdoor active lifestyle. For us, it’s the go-to place for Keen shoes, sun hats, swim wear and outfits that go from the playground to the concert scene seamlessly. “Keen sandals are great for kids, they’re very versatile. Kids can wear them hiking and in the water,” Steve Lincks, owner of Ptarmigan Sports says. But even more than the sturdy footwear and cool-casual clothing, Ptarmigan carries so many other items that kids need – they just might not know it… yet. Slacklines. They’ve become very popular after the last few Mountain Games in Vail, where kids and adults alike become entranced watching people walk, twist, skip and even flip on the four-inch wide piece of webbing.

Everything and Beyond

shopping in vailThe town of Eagle is 15-miles west of Edwards and has become a mountain biking mecca with trails that twist and turn through sagebrush, climb up into high alpine desert and offer beautiful descents. When the riding’s done for the day, a kid’s gotta play and The Nearly Everything Store has just what the name implies.

From Legos to Bog boots, fishing rods to crafts, books, treats, puzzles and teapots – the store has everything. Part of the fun is strolling up and down the aisles, comparing the different wares, trying to select the perfect item. The beauty of The Nearly Everything Store is that you have no idea what the perfect item is until you see it – and there is a lot to see.

The store has quite a history of its own – bought by the Hoza family in 1966 as a pharmacy till it grew and morphed into a store that sold nearly everything. In January 2015, the Batsons (who run the pharmacy) bought the business and have put their own stamp on it in the way of tons of toys, new books, different cards and party supplies.

Eagle County isn’t the podunk valley that fashion left behind. The area’s fashion and adventure experts will keep your kids outfitted for any adventure, whether a hike up the mountain or a bar mitzvah at the Ritz.

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Vail Jazz festival for kids and other musical offerings

music events in vailPint-sized performances By LS Burns

This summer, Vail Jazz will produce more than 45 shows from late June through early September, many of which will appeal to youngsters. “Our mission is to perpetuate jazz with a focus on young artists and young audiences,” Litt says. “Kids are a huge part of the festival. We offer easy listening performances and hands-on educational programs geared toward introducing jazz to children. “It’s exciting as a parent to see what sparks interest in your children when they witness live music played at such a professional level,” Litt continues.

If your child is more of the hands-on type, they’ll likely enjoy Jammin’ Jazz Kids, which takes place every Sunday in July at the Jazz Tent at Solaris at the Vail Farmers’ Market tent. The free, interactive educational program is for children age 4 to 12. Jazz master Tony Gulizia, who has been teaching and performing locally for more than two decades, teaches the classes.

The 50-minute sessions begin at 11 a.m. and feature a new topic each week. “One week we’ll do the rhythms of jazz and the next week we’ll focus on the improvisational aspect of jazz,” Gulizia says. “It’s very informative for young kids, but I’ve gotten so much feedback from parents too, who say ‘I’m glad I stayed; I learned so much.’” Speaking of staying, consider grabbing lunch and then watching Jazz at the Market, the free afternoon shows featuring local and regional jazz groups performing a wide range of styles.

Catch a kid-friendly concert in Eagle County this summer Classical music filled the soundtrack to Robin Litt’s childhood. “My mother was an opera singer and a concert pianist, so I grew up with classical music playing 24/7, more than my sister and I liked at the time,” said Litt, who is the executive director of Vail Jazz.

Looking back “I really appreciate that my parents instilled a love for music in me,” she says. Given that, Litt exposed her daughter, Hannah, and son, Sam, now ages 14 and 15 respectively, to music early on. “Introducing music into young children’s lives is so important in their development — it inspires creative movement,” Litt says. “It calms little ones and it also fosters strong listening skills. There are so many studies that tie early listening to strong math skills; it’s the beat, rhythm and melody that children can relate to. Music is so powerful and it’s a gift for kids to be able to grow up with.”

Litt’s children took piano lessons for many years, and both enjoy music. “My son sings in the high school show choir and plays in drum line and both of my children are active in performing arts, singing and dancing,” she says. Compared to similar-sized communities, Eagle County affords families unparalleled access to a wide variety of culture.

muscial events for families in vailOn Thursday evenings, you can catch Jazz at Vail Square at the jazz tent in Lionshead. The two-hour shows, which begin July 2 and run through Sept. 3, will appeal to both the jazz newbie and the aficionado alike thanks to the wide variety of jazz styles presented— from bebop to the American Songbook, straight ahead jazz to the blues.

Free family fun Some of the best kid-friendly concerts in the Vail Valley also happen to be free. On Thursday evenings during the summer, Eagle Town Park morphs into a bright patchwork sea of blankets, picnic fare and busy children.

The ShowDown Town concert series takes place in July and August and you’re likely to see many of the same faces at each show since it’s a summer bucket list item for many Eagle County families. The series kicks off July 2 this year. While the specific acts had yet to be announced at press time, all of the concerts have a few key things in common. “All ShowDown Town performances are family-friendly and feature free activities for kids,” says Kate Peters of the Vail Valley Foundation, which puts on the concerts. “Families often bring chairs or a blanket and pack their own picnic.”

The bands come from a wide variety of genres, including rock, bluegrass, jazz, country, cover bands and more, in order to appeal to all ages and interests, Peters says. The nearby playground allows parents to watch the band and keep one eye on their child while he or she runs off some energy before bedtime.

There are also family activities each week, which includes things such as face painting, balloon animals and character sketches.

The ShowDown Town concerts aren’t the only option when it comes to getting the kids out of the house and in front of a good performance. Along with gorgeous weather, each summer the Vail Valley boasts a wide variety of kid-friendly concerts and performances at venues throughout the county.

Up- valley, the longstanding and very popular Hot Summer Nights shows take place for free Tuesday evenings at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the shows start at 6:30 p.m. Top-notch tributes Appropriate for the slightly older children, the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek has a few shows on the summer schedule that will appeal to all ages.

Stayin’ Alive, A Bee Gees Tribute Concert, is slated for July 2. Expose your littles to the disco era with hits like “Night Fever” and “Jive Talkin’.” The dance pit will be open for the show, and the folks at the Vilar Center encourage families to bring their children, as it will be one big dance party for all ages to enjoy.

musical events in vail for kidsIntroduce the kids to the Fab Four with another tribute concert on Aug. 29 when 1964 The Tribute visit the Vilar Center. The Beatles tribute band has been around since 1984, performed around 3,000 shows and released their own albums and videos. “We love bringing topnotch tribute shows to the Vilar Performing Arts Center and they’re always a big hit for families,” said Kris Sabel, the executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. “While reliving their past, parents have the opportunity to expose their children to the tunes they grew up listening to, kids have the opportunity to experience the excitement of a full scale concert, and it’s always fun to see all ages dancing together to timeless classics.”

Classic creations If classical music is more your family’s bag, Bravo! Vail has a handful of concerts taking place this summer that are suitable for children of all ages.

“Let’s Dance” with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra takes place July 8 at the Ford Amphitheater and showcases a combination of classic and popular dance styles, including waltz, cha-cha, tango, swing and jazz paired with classic tunes. Lawn seats are $5 for kids age 3-12.

In a rare opportunity, Bravo! Vail will host a live concert of NPR’s acclaimed radio show From the Top with host Christopher O’Riley on July 9 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. Bravo! is collaborating with Colorado’s National Repertory Orchestra for pre-professional orchestra players from age 18 to 28.

bravo vail event in vailThis show is suitable for children age 7 and up ($10 for children age 7 to 12). “Audience members will be part of the show’s creation before it airs on the radio, while meeting a young generation in love with classical music — a positively rare insider opportunity,” says Carly West of Bravo! Vail.

Last year the Philadelphia Orchestra performed Disney Fantasia: Live in Concert while the popular childhood classic screened overhead. This year, the Philadelphia Orchestra returns for Pixar: Live in Concert on July 11. The orchestra will play music from 13 Pixar favorites such as “Toy Story,” “Up,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.” and more, while showing animated movie excerpts. Kids of all ages will enjoy this event, as well as the free family concert slated for July 16 at 11:30 a.m.

Members of The Philadelphia Orchestra and two actors will captivate youngsters with Prokofiev’s playful Peter and the Wolf. Arrive when the gates open at 10:30 a.m. for a chance to check out the Instrument Petting Zoo and a variety of games and activities.