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Best Of 2002

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Youth Mountain Outreach

Back in 1994, Ray Sforzo, Director of Snowboarding for Vail Resorts, and Arn Menconi, a self-proclaimed "Humble Snowboard Revolutionary," started SOS, or Snowboard Outreach Society. Their mission, at first, was to serve and inspire at-risk youth. Now, as Menconi says, "More and more we find that the people who are truly at risk are those who do not serve others." Because of this philosophy, the SOS has tried to pull in as many adult volunteers as possible, resulting in a youth-to-adult ratio of 2:1 in 2001. The number of volunteers and participants increases every year, from just forty snowboarders in the 1994-95 season to 695 youths during the 2000-01 season. The kids participate in a five-day program called LTR -- Learn to Ride. The program's founders are convinced snowboarding's "cool appeal" and quick learning curve help kids develop self-confidence, which they can carry off the mountain and into the classroom and their daily lives. Even better news is that this program has outgrown Colorado and can now be found in other states, too. It has also outgrown its season -- hosting two summer kayak programs in 2001. Way to chill, dudes.


Best Mascot

It's no easy task to buoy up the spirits of fans whose on-floor heroes are always getting their butts handed to them. But Rocky the Mountain Lion does it every night -- with astonishing acrobatics, the occasional no-look swish from half court (including one recently with a ball he boldly had Michael Jordan autograph) and a mischievous playfulness that captivates kids and grownups alike. Rocky's three-foot-long lightning-bolt tail is a triumph of the costumer's art, and even if every Nugget now on the roster goes the way of Dikembe Mutombo, the most entertaining pro-sports mascot in the country will endure: He made his debut way back on December 15, 1990, and hasn't lost a step since.

Best New Mascot

Who says white men can't jump? Not those wags on a University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team who saw white folks jump all over their idea when the UNC hoopsters named themselves "The Fighting Whites" in protest of the mascot -- a big-beaked caricature of an Indian -- used by nearby Eaton High School's "Fightin' Reds." The Whites' copyright T-shirt designs, including a white male dressed in a suit, soon became red, er, white hot, with orders pouring in to their Web site. Charles Cuny, a Native American, hadn't planned on making a statement when he assembled the multi-racial team. "I just wanted to play basketball on Tuesdays," he explained. White on!

Best Minor-League Mascot

He's got a squirt gun, a knack for doing handstands, and an attitude, and that makes the Colorado Springs Sky Sox mascot, Sox the Fox, now entering his third year, the best minor-league mascot around. In fact, aside from Rocky (whose creator trained one of the two men who don the foxy costume), Sox is the most entertaining mascot in the state. "We love that guy," says Gabe Ross, assistant general manager and public-relations director for the Sky Sox, a Colorado Rockies farm team. "Major-league teams are a little more handcuffed by public opinion, but wobbling around and patting kids on the head can get old pretty quick." Sox has been played by two people, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student Phil Monday and former Sky Sox grounds-crew employee Chad White, and both will be back next year. Fox in Sox, indeed.

Best Old Mascot

For a school whose students make most Ivy Leaguers look like dopes, the Colorado School of Mines takes a decidedly low-brow approach to its home football games. And even though the Mines eleven once thrashed the University of Colorado (a century ago) and went undefeated as recently as the late 1930s, nobody seems too ambitious on fall Saturdays in Golden. But Mines surprised fans this year, winning more than losing, and normally blasé students had something to kick about. Even though the school's jackass mascot was retired years ago, school spirit's made a comeback. Bray to go!

Best Appearances by Santa

As if to prove that Santa is everywhere in December, Ocean Journey treated folks to daily underwater Santa shows featuring the jolly one, with beard and hair flowing wildly, flip-flapping his way around in the deep. But we were wondering: Now that the aquarium is treading water, will Santa sleep with the fishes?

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Best Youth Mountain Outreach: Snowboard Outreach Society

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