Best Sports 2002 | REI | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Sure, REI's flagship store has that slammin' climbing wall, its own Starbucks and, right outside, the Platte River, where you can test-drive/ride/kayak the equipment. But the best sports in the building are the people who man the Outdoor Recreation Information Center, a joint venture between the sporting-goods company's store and nonprofit groups, including the Colorado Mountain Club, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks. Conveniently located near the map section, the center's booth is staffed by forest-service personnel and volunteers, who hand out maps, literature (only from public agencies -- no commercial outfits allowed) and all sorts of advice on where to use that equipment now that you've bought it. The center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays; the ORIC's Web site,, is available at all hours. Information, please -- and thank you.

It's sweet and petite, just the most delightful addition to a holiday shopping outing with the kids. From mid-November to mid-January, the Cherry Creek North Business District opens its outdoor rink at Fillmore Plaza daily, and it stays open late on Friday and Saturday nights. Skate rentals are available, but no tushie pillows.
Open year-round, the indoor South Suburban Ice Arena complex offers twin ice sheets, a concession stand, lessons for all ages and ability levels, competitive programs for hockey and figure skating, and cool admission prices for public skating: $2.50-$3.50 in district and $4-$5 for non-district residents. Tell 'em Sakic sent you.
From mid-December to mid-March, 55-acre Evergreen Lake becomes a high-altitude Hans Brinker's dream. This is outdoor skating at its finest, with a cleared hockey rink on one shore, the Lakehouse serving hot chocolate on the other and plenty of public skating in between. The rest of the year, the lake's great for fishing and boating. Try that at the Pepsi Center.

After the old Hyland Hills Ice Arena closed in 1997, the facility could have stayed in cold storage. But hockey is hot, and so is in-line skating. So the building was spiffed up with a smooth surface and brought back as the Breakaway Center by In-line Endeavors, LLC, in cooperation with Westminster and the Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District. Also home to the Western Conference of the Professional Major League Roller Hockey Association, this is now the place to glide and ride.

Say you're allergic to bar smoke but still have a jones for tabletop hockey. Save your pennies and buy your own sturdy Carrom Bubble-Hockey table for about $900 through Wagner's Casual Dining. Want to take it for a test spin? The company is happy to order you a trial table so you can see just how cool it would be to have your own in-home stadium.

Okay, maybe it's not technically seaweed, but the chilly algae attached to the rocks in the Yampa can prove an irresistible plaything during a hot summer's float through Steamboat. Several operators line the banks of the Yampa renting tubes for floaters, and during lulls, some have been known to scoop handfuls of the stuff and bomb tubers with the Steamboat slime. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Just as Winter Park strives to offer skiing as it used to be (and maybe ought to be), the neigh-

boring tubing hill in Fraser has an authentic feel. Looking out over the railroad tracks from the top of the hill is inspiring; so is the headlong rush down the hill. During spring break, operators have been known to keep the hill humming for twelve-hour intervals. While there are other winter tubing places, it's hard to match the thrill of this hill.

An estimated 5,000 stickers shellac the entire body of a 1975 Pontiac Grandview, the baby of Broomfield Middle School P.E. teacher Al Pallone. After starting with stickers from his son Vinny's sports teams a decade ago, Pallone gradually enveloped his everyday ride in stickers trumpeting everything from Megadeth to the National Hot Rod Association. The road life of Colorado's first art car came to an abrupt end five years ago when the engine blew, but Pallone donated it to the Forney Transportation Museum so visitors could eternally pay their respects to the automotive sensation that is ZaBeast.

This summer collection of related shows was so worth the drive -- no, cruise -- south to Pueblo. In fact, the very act of driving was the ultimate way to prepare for the riches awaiting your bone-weary bottom and road-fried mind at the end of that ninety-mile trek. There, high-end automotive art by the likes of Robert Williams, Von Dutch and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth canoodled with sleek hotrod forms and candy-colored lowrider art, and vintage gas pumps and gauges sidled up alongside hubcap collections and car-part assemblages in a good-natured free-for-all. It was like a crash-course trip through a late-night showing of American Graffiti, augmented by a demented stopover in the realm of Zap Comix. The classy Sangre de Cristo Center was definitely on a roll.

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