BEST OUTDOOR SKATING RINK 2006 | The Rink at Belmar | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Like just about everything else at oh-so-hip Belmar, the rink couldn't be just a rink. This slick facility, complete with a rental kiosk housed in a refurbished, 31-foot vintage Airstream trailer, proved to be enormously popular with visitors to the shopping center this winter, and also served as the site for such loony, Belmar-style retro events as the Dated Holiday Sweater Skate Night. As if that weren't enough, all skating and rental fees went to Jeffco schools. We can't wait to start skating on thin ice again next season.
Designing, building and maintaining a terrain park is as much an art as it is a science, and Copper Mountain displays the right blend of physics and beauty with its snow sculpting. Dubbed "Catalyst," the park runs beneath the American Flyer lift and is separated into three zones that run parallel to each other down the mountain. The left side, with mini-kickers and small rails, is reserved for beginners. The center area is a step up in skill level, allowing boarders to progress on kinked rails until they work up the cojones to hit the giant tabletops, hips, tall rainbow rails and eighteen-foot quarter-pipe/wall ride on the right side. But all roads lead to Copper's 430-foot-long Main Vein Superpipe, with seventeen-foot-high walls set on a sixteen-degree pitch. This is your ticket to ride.
Arapahoe Basin already appeals to the independent skier, the person who'd rather power down the slopes than vamp through Vail. And while there are plenty of challenging runs -- including the classic Pallavicini -- on A-Basin's official map, the area also boasts great out-of-bounds skiing. A short walk from the top of the Lenaway Lift and through the U.S. Forest access gate, there's a mile-long stretch known as the Beavers, which starts at about 12,500 feet and drops you down below the base at 9,000. The wide-open slope faces north, which means it gets less sun -- so the snow sticks around a lot longer. Getting back up to the base is easy, too: The run ends right at the road that leads to A-Basin. So after laying down some turns in the fresh pow-pow, all you need to do is stick out your thumb to get a lift to the lift so you can shoot the Beavers all over again. And do it soon: A-Basin has set its sights on expanding into the area.
In 1952, early fans of skiing banded together as the Schussbaumer Ski Club, even opening a crash pad in Georgetown. That had to move when I-70 came through, so in 1965 the members built a chalet in Breckenridge that was close to the only game in town -- back when that town was a sleepy old mining burg just beginning to turn into a resort. Now, of course, Breckenridge is an international destination brimming with pricey condos and hotels, and the 72 hostel-style beds (divided between a men's floor and a women's) at the club's Breckenridge Chalet, located right at the base of Peak 8, may be the best ski deal in the state. Membership in the club -- it's limited to 150 active members, plus alumni -- is $495 a year and buys you both access to the slopes anytime and one giant slumber party.
Winter Park is rich in history from the early mining days of Colorado, but at thirty, Mary Jane is still young at heart. Over the past three decades, the area's runs -- Rail Bender, Trestle, Needle's Eye -- have become infamous for their great fall lines and the Volkswagen-sized bumps that keep lots of knee surgeons in business. And if you're fortunate enough to stumble on one of the huts hidden in the trees off Mary Jane, your skiing adventure will reach a new high. Bump and run!
A Best of Denver award may seem like small potatoes after your brainchild was just named Best New Product at the 65th International Trade Show for Sports Equipment and Fashion, but Ben Anderson knows where he comes from, and he beamed with Colorado pride when he accepted that honor in Germany in February. An Evergreen-based entrepreneur, Anderson wants to revolutionize the ski industry with his AT Boards, a fat ski/snowboard hybrid with just as much surface area as most long skis. The shorter Icelantics allow for great maneuverability in the trees, they can cut through just about every condition a mountain throws at a skier, and they're ideal for hiking in the backcountry, because they're much less awkward to carry. Anderson's just 23, but it looks like he's already won his uphill battle.
Founded in 1995 by snowboard-company pioneer Jake Burton, Chill started as a simple idea: to introduce inner-city kids and at-risk youth to snowboarding. Today the program has spread from Vermont to cities and states across the country, including Denver. Organizers work with 25 youth-service agencies -- including foster care and group homes -- to identify kids who might benefit from some time on the slopes. As local Chill outreach coordinator Daniel Ritchie explains, many teens have lived in the Mile High City their entire lives, yet never set foot in the mountains. This ski season, Chill had a roster of 170 kids who hopped on buses once a week to learn the ins and outs of boarding -- and got the chance to see life from a whole different perspective. Chill out.
By spring, all that wax you lavished on your board or skis at the beginning of the season has long since disappeared. Halfway up I-70, you realize that you're going to be stuck on anything that's flat, with the sticky snow pulling at your skis or board like a nagging child pulling on his mother's skirt. But a quick trip to Idaho Springs will fix all that. Maison De Ski will run anyone's board or skis through the wax machine for free. It's also fast -- just like your skiing and boarding will be after this stop.
The only thing that sucks about going to the mountains for the weekend is coming home in Sunday-night traffic. Giant SUVs struggle along like lumbering mammoths, and at the slightest trace of snow or ice, traffic often snarls to a halt. Frustration sets in fast: People want to be out of their cars, into their homes. A small ray of hope appears just pass the turnoff for Golden, where a third lane opens on the left side of eastbound I-70, giving savvy drivers a chance to pick up speed. It's an uphill stretch, but anyone who anticipates the break and has enough horsepower under the hood can stomp on the gas pedal and leave at least a dozen grommit cars behind. You may not go as fast as you did on the slopes, but it'll feel like you're flying.
Ready to ride? Hop on your Harley and head hell-bent for leather on Santa Fe Drive 25 miles south of Denver, then hang a right on Highway 67, zip past Bud's (home of the Best Burger) and turn left on Highway 105. This backcountry road takes you on a sixty-mile route through the foothills, along excellent winding curves, hills and beautiful straightaways. There are several worthy side roads to explore, or make tracks to Palmer Lake, where you can refuel at O'Malley's. From there, head north through Larkspur or Castle Rock -- but be sure to end your trip at the Sedalia Grill, one of Colorado's best biker bars.

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