Although the snow is taking a mounting toll on the local economy, Denver is doing a booming business in secret snowboard trips, as boarders from across the country descend on the Mile High City to test its slickest rails and ramps, benches and bridges, then report their findings to national magazines.
This past weekend, a couple of out-of-state riders cruising north on Federal spotted a handicap ramp with a fence protecting a twenty-foot drop. The boarders pulled over and built a little snow kicker they could use to launch themselves off the ramp and over the fence -- to a flat-ass, shell-shock landing.
Despite the discomfort, they did the jump over and over. And then the cops rolled up. Turns out the handicap ramp is also a hot spot for graffiti and gangs.
"Put it down," a female officer screamed at a boarder with a camera in his hand. "Put it down."
"But it's my new camera," the boarder countered.
Another cop rolled up, and when he repeated the order, the boarder put his camera on the hood of the squad car. As he was patted down, he explained what he and his crew were doing: seeking an adrenaline fix in an urban setting. But graffiti seemed to be all the cops cared about, and when they saw that the walls had no fresh prints, they simply warned the boarders that they were in a gang-infested hood.
"Be careful with that red hat, buddy," one cop told a rider. "You might get jacked."
On urban excursions in other cities, these boarders have been ticketed by cops. But Denver's blues tend to treat riders well, they say.
Later that day, they built an impromptu ramp by a rail in central Denver. A young kid came up and told them he wanted to try snowboarding one day.
"Why not today?" the riders asked.
They strapped the kid in and pushed him down the little hill. He made it to the bottom without so much as a stutter, clean.
A cop rolled by, but this one didn't even stop.
The boarders plan to remain here through the next storm, to sample what else the city has to offer. Although they like to keep most locations a secret (like their names) for fear of "blowing up the spot," they did offer up a few of their favorite Denver discoveries: Invesco Field at Mile High, Coors Field, the Capitol, the City and County Building.
It's all downhill from here.
Clothes call: When Brandt Milstein returns to his home town, the home town of generations of Milsteins, he likes to stop by the Jewish Community Center for a shvitz. Which he did over the holidays. And then, as he was shaving in the men's locker room, he realized that the man in the mirror next to him was Dick Lamm, a JCC regular.
For Milstein, an immigration attorney/ abogado in Santa Fe, the opportunity was too good to pass up. He introduced himself to the former governor and, after a little family chitchat, launched into a spirited discussion of the values of immigration -- and Lamm's diametrically opposed position. "My main point was that this kind of rhetoric puts the people I work for at real risk, makes people think they don't have rights," Milstein says. The two debated in practiced "sound bites" for fifteen minutes, he remembers, as a crowd gathered.
And then, finally, Milstein looked down -- and realized that both he and Lamm were naked.
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"He was a sincere young man," Lamm says of his debating partner. "To me, it is imperative that politicians discuss the issues as they honestly see them."
So he welcomes all discussions -- even in men's locker rooms. "It happens all the time," Lamm says. "I have fought all my life for controversial topics." Controversial topics like the first liberalized abortion law, the Stop the Olympics campaign, hard choices in health care -- "that misquote on duty to die" -- and now, immigration.
"I do not think I deliberately mean to be a lightning rod," says Lamm.
Clothed or naked.