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Best Of 2009

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Rapid

Like Chauncey Billups, Conor Casey is a local hero who's getting a chance to prove that you can go home again. He excelled for South High School before heading off to get his kicks beyond state lines, first at the University of Portland and then for a number of European squads, including Germany's Borussia Dortmund. By the time he was picked up by the Rapids in 2007, he seemed to be rounding into a journeyman — and a subsequent ACL injury didn't bode well. But despite missing part of the 2008 season, he led the team in scoring. Looks like Colorado agrees with him.

Best Après-Ski Parking Garage with Food

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.

241 S. Frontage Road E., Vail, 81657
MAP
970-476-7661
Best Area to Avoid Lift Lines at Breck

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.

Best Av

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.

Best Beach
Riverside at Commons Park

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.

15th and Little Raven streets, Denver, 80202
MAP
720-913-1311
Best Bike Ride With Food

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.

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Best Rapid: Conor Casey

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