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Downhill slope: Winter Park Pub

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I'm beat after a long day skiing -- Nordic in the a.m. and downhill at Winter Park in the p.m. It's time for a burger and a couple of beers, so I head to the Winter Park Pub and park my ass on the barstool closest to the wall. Inside walls clad in old signs from Winter Park and old maps of the shuttered Berthoud Pass Ski Area, the place is hopping with spring break-types and locals, a pretty good mix. The music's loud, the stools and surfaces are rough, and the girls are cute -- just about the perfect ski-town bar. (I probably should have put it in the top 10.)

The bartender, a happy guy named Cale "like J.J. Cale," comes over and I order a pint of New Belgium Ranger and a cheeseburger. The burger is less than six bucks and the pint is in the same ballpark.

Pretty soon my pint glass is empty and my burger gone, so I order a Smithwick's and ask Cale when the season ends.

"April 18," he tells me. "It's always a big party. Last year we got a massive dump Friday that closed the pass, so locals had the slopes to themselves Saturday. Then Sunday it cleared up and it was a beautiful bluebird day. It was awesome."

A guy with a huge gray beard and uncombed hair sits between me and the  nearest cute girls. We discuss (in order) nuclear paranoia and bomb shelters, Hellsville/Louviers, growth on the Front Range, and Colorado's millwork industry.

I decide against a third beer and head for the door.

Winter Park Pub, U.S. 40, Winter Park, 970-726-4929, www.winterparkpub.com

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