Busting some long-held myths about the Mile High City

In honor of MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition, which opens at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science this week, we thought we'd provide our own public service and explode a few myths about Denver, starting with...

Denver has 300 days of sunshine a year. Not exactly. Here's the explanation we got a few years ago from state climatologist Nolan Doesken of Colorado State University. It's an oldie but a goodie:

"This is a question that comes up several times per year. You will find in many Chamber of Commerce publications from all areas of Colorado that we get at least 300 days of sunshine each year. The only problem is, there is no official definition of 'days of sunshine,' so there is no data set that you can easily turn to. Have you ever wondered if anyone actually keeps track of stuff like this? It turns out that for many years, three locations in Colorado have operated an instrument called a 'sunshine switch' — Pueblo, Denver and Colorado Springs. If this instrument is cleaned and perfectly calibrated (which it rarely is), it can tell you minute by minute each day when the sun was shining. We did a study over ten years ago based on these three stations and found that for Denver, if you count every day when the sun came out for at least one hour, that then you could come up with an average of around 300 'days of sunshine' each year.

"But my assumption is that most people, if they heard 'day of sunshine,' would assume that meant it was a sunny day. The National Weather Service did establish a criterion for determining clear, cloudy and partly cloudy days based on sky cover. Any day with an average sky cover of 30 percent or less was considered a clear day, while if the sky cover was 80 percent or more (averaged from hourly sky-condition reports between sunrise and sunset), it was considered a cloudy day. Anything in between counts as 'partly cloudy.' Based on this definition, there are 115 clear days, 130 partly cloudy ones and 120 cloudy days, on average, each year. Over in Grand Junction, the number of clear days is great (137), but the number of cloudy days is almost the same (121).

"But the fact is, here in Colorado and much of the Rocky Mountain region, there are relatively few totally clear days, but a whole lot of days when the sun peeks out at least a little. Therefore, we tend to brag about our sunshine — but mislead folks along the way.... In the Denver area, there are probably only 30 to 40 totally overcast days per year, and some of them are even fairly bright — about 300 days would have at least one hour of sunshine sometime during the day, but only about 115 days per year fit the classic definition of 'clear.'

• Denver is in the mountains. As soon as you arrive in this city, you know that this myth misses the about twelve miles, according to calculations by Visit Denver. But then, that organization still touts Denver's 300 days of sunshine.

• Cows walk the streets of Denver. Only in January, at the kick-off of the National Western Stock Show. But there are plenty of horses' asses wandering around the rest of the year.

• There are so many men here, this town is really Menver. While gender inequality in certain bro-heavy ski towns may have given rise to the "Menver" concept, the statistics don't back it up. According to the 2010 United States Census (the last record we downloaded before the government shutdown), the sexes are pretty evenly divided in Denver: For every 100 females, there are 102.1 males.

"Since Denver is in the fittest state in the nation, caters to outdoorsy types plus boasts to be the Napa Valley of beer — women safely assume that there is a Mountain Man McDreamy around every corner — hence Menver," explains Amber Miller, spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Hancock. "All the single ladies must have gotten the rugged-man memo, because the playing field is actually a wash! I guess the 'Yeti' isn't just an imperial stout from Great Divide — it's the myth of Menver. Do you believe?"

• You can buy pot in any bar in town. Not officially, and definitely not legally — and that will still be the case come January 1, when the state's first recreational pot shops open.

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