Wooden Nugget

FRI, 1/21

Has Russian nesting doll fever swept Denver, thanks to the Nuggets? Da!

I was among those scurrying to the Pepsi Center the night after Christmas, ostensibly to watch the NBA home team blow a game against the Dallas Mavericks. But the real reason for the breathless arrival? Simple: The first 8,000 souls to pass through the portals (some of whom undoubtedly camped out all night, awaiting a true Yule present) were rewarded with Nene nesting dolls.

The classic collectibles didn't disappoint. The Babushka-brand wooden dolls, crafted in China, replicated in miniature the burly Brazilian center who currently calls Denver his dunkin' zone. Young and old alike were so gleefully absorbed by unpacking each Nene within a Nene within an old-school- uniformed Nene that whole periods went by with only the sounds of oohing (from the fortunate) or sobbing (from laggards) in the stadium.

And the craze hasn't stopped. The Nugs have slated other nesting-doll promotions, one for each starter. Tonight many savvy folks will submit to watching the team's 8:30 p.m. contest with the reborn Memphis Grizzlies for the sole purpose of scoring an Andre Miller doll troika. But remember: Only the first 8,000 fans get tiny triple 'Dres, so despite the relatively late start time, it's probably not too soon to get in line at the arena.

Upper-end balcony tickets are listed at $10 apiece, and while prices climb considerably until you hit the courtside seats, true collectors will pay any amount. After all, who knows what a full set will fetch on eBay someday? Especially if the future Marcus Camby doll comes without half its shell cracked!

Nuggets tickets are available at the Pepsi Center box office, 1000 Chopper Circle, or www.ticketmaster.com. -- Ernie Tucker

Big Air, Big Party
Vail hosts a free-skiing free show.
SAT, 1/22

Don't know a Fakie 1260 from a Rodeo Five?

No problem. Your jaw will still drop as competitors launch themselves off a massive tower of snow, then flip, twist and spin under the spotlights at the 2005 U.S. Freeskiing Open Championships.

Skiers at Vail's Golden Peak will duke it out in four categories: Slopestyle, Superpipe, Crossmax and Big Air. "The Big Air is really the highlight of the Open," says Vail spokeswoman Nicky DeFord. "It's invite-only, so we get the best free-skiers in the world. Plus, one of the bands from the Winterfresh SnoCore Tour, which is also in town this weekend, will play on a snow stage during the competition. Then the whole thing ends with fireworks."

Qualifying rounds begin tonight at 6 p.m. The superpipe competition, another spectator-friendly event, runs all day tomorrow. For a schedule, go to www.usfreeskiingopen.com. -- Shara Rutberg

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Shara Rutberg
Ernie Tucker
Contact: Ernie Tucker

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