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SPORTS & RECREATION

Best Public Tennis Courts
Washington Park
Fresh resurfacing, new divider fences and the high quality of challenge-court play make former hellhole Washington Park our 1994 choice over perennial winners Congress Park and the Gates Tennis Center (where they nick you for a couple of bucks). Wash Park netters are generally a congenial bunch, too, which means something in a world that gave us John McEnroe and Goran Ivanisevic.

Best Ski Run for Aging Knees
Heavenly Days
Steamboat Springs

The terrain at Heavenly Days is beautiful and has its challenges, but the real attraction here is that at exactly 1 p.m. on most days of the season, former U.S. Olympic medalist Billy Kidd--feather-banded cowboy hat and all--meets at the top of the run with ordinary skiers, then imparts a mini-lesson to them on the way down. Kidd, Steamboat's director of skiing, couldn't have chosen a more appealing publicity tool. And you could hardly choose a finer ski partner. Just be sure to check the sign at the gondola loading station to see if Bill's on the hill that day.

Readers' choice: Cranmer, Winter Park

Best Shredder Run
Floral Park
Berthoud Pass

Floral Park provides boundless excitement for snowboarders--and naturally, it's out of bounds. The area is super-steep and seemingly bottomless, an endless run of untracked powder broken only by some challenging stands of trees. It's perfect for new-schoolers--lots of banking and tweaking. And avalanche danger is an added bonus. Super dope!

Readers' choice: East Wall, A-Basin

Best Bump Run
Outhouse
Winter Park

Fasten your seat belt--it's going to be a very bumpy ride. From the top of the Zephyr lift, the black-diamond Outhouse plunges like a spill of giant marbles to the bottom of the mountain. If you can ski Outhouse without stopping--let alone falling--you'll be talking about it for quite a while (most likely to your orthoscopic surgeon, who'll have to repair the damage to your knees).

Readers' choice: Outhouse

Best Ski Runs for Beginners
Discovery Park
Winter Park

A newly opened novice area, Discovery Park features three or four gentle, linked runs, completely fenced off from the rest of the mountain but bathed in the same sunshine. They're manicured, confidence-building breezers for parents and children alike.

Best Ski Run--Extreme
Spellbound/Flash/Phoenix
Crested Butte

Suffice it to say that the U.S. Extreme Skiing Championships were held at this Crested Butte site in March. This daunting "technical chute" descends 1,475 feet from a summit of 11,400 feet, at an average slope of 35 to 38 degrees. That's steep, folks, even for hotshots. Not only that, but the whole thing is studded with boulders and trees. Clearly not for the fainthearted. Or for visiting Texans.

Best Dog Run
Eagle Open Area
55th St., north of the Boulder Reservoir

Some dogs pop a wheelie and race around like terriers on espresso beans without any stimulation other than an open field. Others, however, require some human interaction (e.g., human-propelled tennis ball). This is where the Eagle Open Area comes in handy. Somebody helpfully stocked the area with about a gazillion prairie dogs, which, unlike the squirrels in city parks, are still possessed of a survival instinct. With little urging, your hound should be sprinting from one hole to another as the prairie critters pop up and down. You, meanwhile, stroll about leisurely. When your dog is exhausted, place him gently in the back of the car and return to the city.

Best Skiing Within an Hour of Denver
Loveland Basin
I-70 at Loveland Pass

Loveland spares the big-ticket resort trappings in order to spoil the skier--acres of champagne terrain ranging from heavenly slopes for beginners to extreme inferno for technical experts. Loveland's no-frills style is reflected in the low-price lift tickets and the easy commute--from Colfax to cold powder in a little less than an hour. You won't find any "ski village," expensive sleepovers or celebrities--this area is strictly for people who think skiing is a challenging mountain sport, not a chillier substitute for Hollywood. Best way to be mistaken for a local? Ski here instead of Vail.

end of part 1

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