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Best Of 2016

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Boards for Locavores — SUP

The stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP) craze has officially swept the state, from downtown spots along the South Platte River to raging whitewater in the mountains. When you're ready to give it a try, start slow and scenic — and at the source — by renting an inflatable board from Steamboat Springs's Hala Gear and taking it out on Steamboat Lake. The learning curve is pretty shallow when you're out there standing on the lake on flat water, and the views are so spectacular that you'll be hooked from the get-go. When you're ready for an extra shot of adrenaline — and a few servings of humble pie — try some of your favorite yoga poses or running some rapids. For a few pro tips, sign up with an outfitter like Steamboat Paddleboard Adventures for lessons on the Yampa River. Buying a board will set you back about $1,500, but they're portable enough to not require a roof rack, and some models include a StompBox retractable-fin design that you'll appreciate when the river gets shallow.

1051 13th St., Steamboat Springs, 80487
MAP
970-367-7885
Best Guess for When Denver Will Go Back to the Super Bowl

Since the Broncos triumphed in Super Bowl 50 earlier this year, a lot of things have happened, many of them troubling. Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and David Bruton, key role players on the defensive squad that was primarily responsible for the victory, have been lured away by big free-agent bucks, and with Peyton Manning's retirement and the mutiny of Brock Osweiler — the heir-apparent signal caller who wasn't — the quarterback situation is uncertain at best. Yet the team's core talent remains — and remains hungry. Give the brain trust a year to put the pieces back together, then get ready for another run for glory.

Readers' choice: 2020
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Bronco

We loved Von Miller before loving Von Miller was cool: He first won his Best Bronco award in 2012, when he was a rookie, and we've been on the bandwagon ever since. This year, though, he took his Von-ness to a new level. His hilarious sack dances — including the Key & Peele-inspired routine that earned him a fine from the NFL — prefigured his naming as a contestant on the next edition of Dancing With the Stars; he's a master when it comes to Instagram and Snapchat; and his interviews (about, among other things, his obsession with raising chickens) are consistently bizarre and hilarious. Oh, yeah: He was also the Most Valuable Player during Super Bowl 50 in every way imaginable. No wonder we love Miller time.

Readers' choice: Von Miller
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Rockie

You'd think being the best Rockie wouldn't be that tough, given how bad the team was last year. But Arenado would have been the top player on plenty of other, much better squads, too. He hits for power, slugging a team-leading 42 home runs in 2015. But he's also a great situational batter, which explains how he managed to average a very solid .287 even as he racked up an impressive 177 hits and drove in 130 runs. Moreover, his fielding is outstanding, as he demonstrated during a flipping, back-twisting grab last April against the San Francisco Giants that was one of the most frequently replayed defensive highlights of the year.

Readers' choice: Nolan Arenado
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Nugget

It was another lost season for the Nuggets, who often looked confused, disinterested or some combination thereof. But Barton was a big exception. When he came to Denver in a 2015 trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, he was a little-known quantity in these parts. But he soon made a name for himself off the bench, bringing much-needed energy, offensive creativity and hops so impressive that he was invited to take part in this year's NBA All-Star slam-dunk competition. And even though he frequently comes off the bench, he's the team's second-leading scorer, behind only the oft-injured Danilo Gallinari. In a unit that has underachieved, Barton's done the opposite.

Readers' choice: Kenneth Faried
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Av

Matt Duchene comes in for plenty of criticism, in part because he was foreseen to be a truly transcendent player, and thus far he's been only a very good one for a team that seems ready to take the next step quality-wise but hasn't been consistent enough to do it. Still, Duchene is typically the Avs' biggest goal-scorer and points-generator, as well as the one player that opponents must account for whenever he's on the ice. Moreover, he's still a mere 25, meaning that he's got plenty of time to become the difference-maker so many prognosticators envisioned.

Readers' choice: Matt Duchene
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Sports Team — Professional
Denver Broncos
Westword
Peyton Manning after winning Super Bowl 50.

You were expecting us to pick someone else? Commentators continue to refer to the 2015-2016 season as a roller coaster, but it came close to being a trainwreck, with Peyton Manning throwing more interceptions than touchdowns as he aged before our eyes. But the defense helped the team win games it should have lost, with a late-season assist from the now-departed Brock Osweiler, who stepped in when Manning's poor play and assorted injuries made benching him a necessity. Then Manning returned in heroic fashion just in time for a march through a killer playoff schedule, capped by the best sort of victory in Super Bowl 50 — one that was both unexpected in many quarters and richly satisfying. Aren't you glad you were there to see it?

Readers' choice: Denver Broncos
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Sports Team — College

The shift to the Pac-12 hasn't been pretty for the CU Buffs football team, which would have to improve measurably to be considered mediocre. But the school's basketballers have become consistently strong performers, regularly besting ranked opponents and challenging for the opportunity to take part in March Madness. And while the outfit is anchored by senior Josh Scott, a mix of promising sophomores and juniors — including George King, Josh Fortune and Dominique Collier — provides hope that the Buffs will continue to get better and better as time goes on.

Readers' choice: DU Hockey
1490 30th St., Boulder, 80309
MAP
303-492-1411
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Coach — Professional
Wade Phillips
YouTube

In the past, this award has always gone to a head coach. But while Broncos boss Gary Kubiak deserves credit for helping his charges navigate a season filled with more than its share of melodrama, the real hero was defensive coach Phillips, who took a group of players that had been good in the past and transformed them into planet-toppers by way of an aggressive philosophy that unleashed their inner beasts. From game one, the D was terrific, which only makes its steady improvement through the regular season and into the playoffs that much more astonishing. Phillips's previous stints with the Broncos, including his two seasons as head coach during the early '90s, hardly prepared us for the majesty he would produce: gridiron brilliance that led directly to a win in Super Bowl 50. And as a bonus, he got to see Lady Gaga!

Readers' choice: Gary Kubiak
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Coach — College
Tad Boyle, University of Colorado Boulder men's basketball team
BuffVision via YouTube

Before Boyle's arrival, CU basketball had experienced some great moments (a lot of them related to Chauncey Billups's time on the squad), but hadn't become the kind of program that was strong year in and year out. But after turning around the Northern Colorado Bears, he's done the same at CU, where his teams have won more than twenty games — a major-conference mark of excellence — for five of his six years at the helm. No wonder students at the Boulder campus pack every home game. In Tad they trust — as well they should.

Readers' choice: Tad Boyle
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best Sports Announcer

Plenty of local media observers were shocked when KOA pink-slipped Roach last year. But he's more than landed on his feet — and his spectacular vocal cords are the reason. His Twitter bio describes his gigs with becoming modesty; it notes that he is "heard at Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, DIA trains, Rio Olympics or anywhere with a script and $50." That apparently includes this year's NFL Pro Bowl and the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony — just two of the national events that have been enhanced by his bottomless tones.

Readers' choice: Dave Logan
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
Best TV Sportscaster

For years, Lombardi was a mainstay on CBS4, and his departure from the station was a dispiriting sign of the times. Fortunately, though, he hasn't disappeared from the Denver sports landscape. By jumping to Altitude, the network home of the Nuggets and the Avalanche, he's found a more wide-open forum for his quick wit and strong opinions — qualities that make him a must-follow on Twitter, too. And while he lost his radio gig on 104.3/The Fan in December, we have a feeling it won't be long before he returns to that medium, too.

Readers' choice: Drew Soicher
See what our readers picked as the winners in all categories!
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