Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Let's face it: Except for those elite few who hike for fresh tracks, most of us skiers and riders who prefer to stay in the lift-served inbounds can be a pretty lazy bunch. That's why we've chosen a sport that lets us ride up the hill while sitting in a chair and then coast downhill. The most physically taxing part of the day is the walk from the parking lot to the first chair and back. And this season, Keystone made that walk a little easier. Its gondola used to require a hike over the bridge and up a short hill before loading, but not anymore. The new eight-passenger River Run Gondola uses the same footprint, except that it stretches a little bit farther so that skiers can load in the village, right across from where lift tickets are sold. Not only is the new gondola faster, but it encourages people to download at the end of the day rather than ski down River Run, where the entire resort used to funnel out in one massive 4 p.m. traffic jam. Now those who want to get in that last, crunchy run don't have to weave through an obstacle course of stalled beginners.
While tourists in Oakleys and Prada jumpsuits sip champagne cocktails on the cutesy sidewalk cafes of Vail Village, locals — and Denver day skiers — head to the parking garage après ski. La Cantina isn't exactly a restaurant. Sandwiched into a public foyer and hallway, next to a locker room and below the bus stop, it feels like the guys piecing together your massive burrito and plate of nachos are squatters, ready to pack up their grill at a moment's notice when security comes round. But in a place that's all frills, this no-frills, satisfying grub complemented by free chips and salsa (though tips are encouraged) is a refreshing change of pace. Plus, if you were willing to shell out the $25 it costs to park in the garage all day, you can conveniently drop off your gear and change out of your boots before chowing down.
For wide open, empty blue groomers, Breckenridge's Peak 7 used to be the place to go because it took a little work traversing cat tracks to get there, thus deterring big crowds. That all changed this season with the opening of a new Peak 7 base development — Breck's first since 1971. Peak 7 is now the first stop on the BreckConnect gondola, which means lift lines. But what's bad for Peak 7 has been great for Peak 10. A lot of the skiers who start their day at Peak 7 won't ever make it past Peak 8, let alone to Peak 10. Even on Presidents' Day weekend — one of the busiest resort holidays — the Falcon SuperChair serving some of the best groomed blue-black steeps Breck has to offer was loading skiers into chairs before they had time to loosen their boots or pull out their maps.
It's been a lost season for the Avs — the rebuilding year that the team's brain trust has been trying to avoid for quite a while now. But all hope is not lost, thanks to a core group of young players boasting an enormous amount of upside, with Wolski chief among them. He's big, durable and prolific — as good at scoring goals as he is at assisting his fellow skaters. He's kept company with veterans Ryan Smith and Milan Hejduk among team points leaders throughout 2008-2009, and he's honed his skills to a fine edge in tie games, earning the nickname "King of the Shootout." May he keep finding the back of the net for a long time to come.
There's no boardwalk, no waves, no surfers and almost no sand, but the tiny riverfront stretch down the hill from Commons Park is a peaceful way to grab a little serenity in the midst of a busy city. Close your eyes and listen to the Platte River as it trickles (or rushes after a rainfall) over the rocks and concrete at the base of the pedestrian bridge. Sit back and check out the dog lovers as they let their pooches swim around in the muck, or the tai chi types while they show off their moves. You can even chill a couple cans of your favorite beverage in the water. If you don't mind the grime, pick up a piece of driftwood, a little shell or a rock and skip it across to the other side. Oh, and don't forget the sunblock; after all, Denver beaches are a mile closer to the sun.
Cyclists in the know understand that Salvagetti is like the People's bike shop: low-key, attitude-free and street-level. The folks there fix bikes, talk bikes and simply love bikes, and they see no reason to take the fun out of buying and riding bikes. Most important, at Salvagetti, biking is community, and that's why it organizes all manner of group bike treks and bikerly events, from bike-in movie screenings in the alley to hands-on demo rides where you can try on the merchandise for size. But its sweetest cycling gathering is a morning pleasure jaunt on selected Sundays, beginning in spring and continuing through the deepest fall, with a restaurant destination where riders can fill up on pancakes and good coffee and then ride it all off again.