As a mom with four kids, the youngest being 15, sometimes it’s hard to find activities to do with them. They’d much rather disappear with friends than hang out with either parental unit. This is why I look forward to the Winter X Games every year. In years past I’ve written about different aspects of this event, from the top 14 reasons I love the X Games, to how the women athletes inspired me by their support of each other.
This year, as I walked through the Games, I noticed a lot of kids. Not just wild-haired teenagers, but school aged kids. It dawned on me that the X Games are not just a place to take your teens when you’re looking for a bonding experience, there is plenty to do with younger kids too.
While sorting through my 10 gazillion pictures, I came up with seven things to do with kids at X Games. After reading through them, you might just want to go ahead and put a trip to Aspen on your family calendar for this time next year. It’s a free event, after all, and you’ll take home a million bucks worth of new memories.
- Take a great picture! There are photo opportunities galore at the venue. From action cut-outs to huge silly inflatables. Your trip photo album will be full of toothy smiles on truly happy faces.
2. Try out new sports! This year there were opportunities for little people to ride snowmobiles on a small course, and ride a snowboard on a tiny rail. It’s very inspiring to be around so many different winter sports events. Who knows, you might be raising the next Shaun White. My own 15-year-old wasn’t sure he was going to ski during the day at X Games this year, but standing at the bottom of the Super Pipe on Saturday night inspired him to turn to me and say, “This makes me want to ski so badly!” He was on the slopes early Sunday morning.
3. Catch a ride! Knowing little legs will tire out faster with all the walking on snow, there were several families who came prepared with sleds and wagons with chunky tires. Every year there are more and more heavy plastic mats on the main walkways, making it easier and easier to pull or push kids around. That being said, you’ll get into even more areas if you also bring along a backpack carrier for the littlest guys.
4. High five a professional athlete! If you arrive early enough it’s easy to catch a spot along the fence for the Super Pipe events. This means that every time an athlete comes off a run, they ski or board right past you. It’s a fun tradition, for the crowd and the athletes, to take the path through the crowd on their way back to the top of the hill. Many stop to high five fans, take selfies, and sign anything that’s thrown at them. It’s even fun to watch the camera guys fly through, with their huge contraptions. Each athlete has a camera follow them down the pipe so you’ll see a lot of the guys in white coats. The pictures below show Chloe Kim posing with any fan who asked, in the middle of a competition, where she happened to take home a gold medal.
5. Climb high for a better view! For an entirely different experience, make an effort to climb the side of the Super Pipe and watch the action from up close. The way it’s set up, it’s possible to stand right underneath the athletes as they take flight and do their spins. An hour before the event the crowd is allowed to climb the sides of the Super Pipe (which are outfitted with handy staircases) and find their place along the edge. I’ve stood in that spot and could actually hear the music in the athlete’s headphones and hear them breathing as they graced the sky over my head.
And the beauty of how big the Super Pipe really is, even if you are three or four deep in the crowd, you will still see a lot and get great views of the athletes who pick your spot for their next trick. The athletes tell me they love to hear the crowd cheering for them as they go airborne, and it adds a whole new level of excitement for both spectator and athlete.
It’s a bit physically demanding to stand on a slope for a long period of time so I’d suggest trying this viewing option with kids 10 and up. And don’t worry if you don’t get a prime spot right away. Usually, the people in the front get fatigued at some point and head back down, even mid-event and the whole crowd moves up a level. Patience pays off.
6. Touch a real gold medal! The X Games organizers are great about having X Games athletes set up around the village, signing autographs, taking pictures, and letting kids hold an actual medal in their hands. Even my 15-year-old broke out his rare grin when Mike Schultz’s brand new gold medal was sitting between his fingers (Surprise! It’s heavy!).
7. Research and support an athlete! Every time the Paralympics rolls around I encourage the kids in my world to pick one athlete and follow them through the Games. The same can be done with X Games athletes. In the weeks before the Games, ESPN does a great job of publishing back stories of the competing athletes, as well as their past X Games records.
Have your kid pick an event, and an athlete, and read up on them. Then bring posters and cheer your lungs out. If you end up close to the front of the fence you might even get that athlete to sign your poster. They all seem to have a soft spot for kids in the crowd, and would most definitely love to see a kid rooting for them personally. The picture below is X Games icon Danny Davis, posing with a young fan, in the midst of getting his ankle taped up. The little guy walked off beaming.
X Games has wrapped for this year. ESPN has compiled some of the greatest moments of the weekend. If you need just one resource to get your kids excited about heading to Colorado next January, flip through these pictures, with great descriptions underneath. And, oh yeah, just watch a few clips on the ESPN website, from the latest X Games. Or tune into ABC on February 6th, 13th and 20th, for a recap of the 2016 X Games. Your kids will be counting down the days until X Games 2017.