Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
The Pioneers had been there before, but this was something special. On March 10 in Middlebury, Vermont, the University of Denver ski team won the NCAA championships for the second straight year -- and for a record sixteenth time in school history. A perennial power on snow (particularly in the grueling men's Nordic events), DU easily outpointed second-place Vermont and third-place Colorado by winning three events overall, scoring two individual victories and putting eleven All-American performances by seven skiers in the books. In the tough ten-kilometer men's race, DU skiers Wolf Wallendorf, Joern Frohs and Pietro Broggini swept the top three places. The Pioneers last claimed back-to-back NCAA titles in 1970 and 1971.
The biggest problem for Denver's mountain bikers is that there are so many good trails to choose from, starting with the serpentine paths along Cherry Creek and extending to the numerous routes crisscrossing the hogbacks and foothills just west of town. For variety and a tough nearby challenge, though, you can't get much better than Mountain Lion Trail, a seven-mile tangle of roots, rocks, stream crossings and steep climbs only a half hour west of Denver, in Golden Gate State Park outside of Golden. The rangers list the trail as moderate, but beware: That's only for hikers. Two-wheel travelers will find it considerably more rigorous. Follow the signs off of Route 93, west of Golden.
When you're trying to bag all 54 of Colorado's fourteeners, Culebra Peak could be your steepest challenge. Not because it's such a difficult climb; the mountain rises relatively gently above what used to be the Taylor Ranch west of Trinidad in Culebra County. The problem is that Culebra Peak stands on private land, and while previous owners would let climbers in -- charging as much as $40 per person -- in 1999, the peak became off limits to mountaineers entirely. But last July, the Colorado Mountain Club was granted access to take thirty people to the top of Culebra. At $30 per climber, it went so well that the club hopes to schedule more trips this summer. That 54th peak? It's almost in the bag.
It wasn't so long ago that the guys of Boulder-based OAITW were a decent-enough disc-tossing bunch. But they weren't getting any younger, and so a couple of years ago they decided to do something so drastic it is virtually unheard of in many Frisbee circles: practice. It paid off. In 1999, the masters-level (a mere 33 years old and over, in the skewed view of disc throwers) squad won the Ultimate Frisbee national championship. That, in turn, qualified the team to compete in last summer's quadrennial world championships, held in Germany. The team members, some of whom are actually in their -- gasp! -- forties, won. Three more years of bragging rights.
For the past fifteen years or so, the little town of Evergreen has been staging a series of trail runs that add up to the best race of the year. "People up here are used to running on trails," says Evergreen Rec Superintendent Sharon Martin. "They don't like going down to run on roads." This year, the event kicks off on June 17 with an eight-mile trek at the Mount Falcon Open Space Area. Then, on July 15, there's a 6.2-miler at Alderfer Three Sisters park. The conclusion is a dual run on September 9: an 11.5-mile jog up Bergen Peak for the more macho and a 5.6-mile lope through Elk Meadow for the less robust.
The Gates Family Foundation Interactive Fountain, a refurbished, space-age amusement, popped up a couple of summers ago behind the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Since then, it's become Denver's best imitation of Water World -- except
admission is free. Here's what you'll find by the fountain when it's 95 degrees and rising in the middle of August: kids in swimsuits or cutoffs, toddlers in droopy diapers and even some pretty big kids, the kind old enough to buy booze and cigarettes (that puts them at about twelve). Each at their own pace, they'll race in and out of the spray, trying to outwit the thing, which pulsates interactively, spouting sudden jets of water in response to the tread of little feet. Of course, the revelers may have opposing goals: While some want only to jump in and out without being soaked, others hope to whip the manmade geysers into a frenzy rarely seen this far south of Yellowstone.
While they can't build a new stadium, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd and manager Buddy Bell hope to win a division title and entertain World Series dreams. So they imported two expensive free-agent pitchers to carry the pennant freight. Mike Hampton is a cream-of-the-crop left- hander who won fifteen games last year for the Series-bound New York Mets, while fellow southpaw Denny Neagle won fifteen for Cincinnati and the Series-winning New York Yankees. Together, these two arms cost the Rockies $172 million on the overheated free-agent market, and if they can't overcome the terrors of pitching at hit-happy Coors Field, there's probably no one who can.