HitStreak
Play ball? The centerpiece of HitStreak's training is the ProBatter Professional PX2, an extraordinary pitch simulator that's hyped as the closest thing you'll find to actually batting against Johan Santana in the bottom of the ninth. Through the use of computerized video imagery and multi-pitch simulation capabilities, the state-of-the-art machine -- preferred by such hard hitters as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox -- combines both the visual and physical aspects of facing a pitcher in competition. The training facility also features multiple hitting tunnels and training stations where wannabe major-leaguers can hone their craft.
Sure, seventeen-foot-tall superpipes and outlandish circus rails might gain the attention of the pros and magazine photographers -- but for the average rider, bigger does not always equal better. The design team behind Keystone's A51 realized this a few years back and has since put together the most coherent -- and fun -- terrain park in the state, one that ranks among the best in the nation, according to TransWorld Snowboarding and Freeskier magazines. Eschewing the trend of high-concept features, A51's rails and jumps are relatively small and simple (or "slayable," in park-rat speak), and organized along four lanes for good flow, quick runs and good times. Shred alert!
Loveland Ski Area
Even though there are much bigger mountains and badder terrain parks, Loveland remains beloved. There are no monstrous hotels here, no $8 cheeseburgers, no jerks running the lifts, no Texans. You don't even have to go through the Eisenhower Tunnel to get here, and less road time means more snow time. And you'll be able to make the most of that time on the uncrowded hill; aside from a few more cars in the parking lot, there's not much difference between the weekends and weekdays at Loveland. No wonder real Denverites slap "I ride Loveland" stickers on their cars.
Is nothing sacred? A-Basin, one of the last bare-bones ski areas around, just added some padding to its sleek skeleton. The mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge features not just a sports shop, but an upscale 200-seat restaurant, with an "alpine bistro menu" that includes grilled salmon and Kobe beef burgers. The fare is a far cry from the usual A-Basin brown-bagging -- but even if you've eaten your fill (and emptied your wallet), you'll want to save some energy for the apres-ski party in the parking lot.
A visit to Ruby Hill is always a high point, since this park is a great place to see the sights of Denver. But this past season, it also became the site of the best ski deal around, when Winter Park Resort and the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation joined together to open Ruby Hill Rail Yard, a terrain park that, like the Denver Skatepark, was free and open to the public from dawn to dusk, and sometimes beyond. The phat little course featured six rails of varying difficulty that took advantage of the hill's natural bowl -- and this year's incredible snowfall -- and boarders from the neighborhood and beyond flocked to the place. Same time next year?
Sandstone Ranch Skate Park
Boarders, bladers and bikers who've cruised through Sandstone Ranch Skate Park since it opened last June might take the 24,000-square-foot concrete course for granted. The smooth arrangement of the expert sections -- like the pool and flow course, alongside such street-plaza components as stairs, gaps and rails -- is so close to perfect that the layout seems obvious, as though it couldn't possibly have been done differently. But that's clearly not the case, as evidenced by the region's abundance of crappy, cramped ramp parks that were definitely done differently. Props to Longmont for entrusting the design to SITE Design Group, true artists of skatepark simplicity.
Technically, the function of the new Highland Bridge is to connect the Commons Park area with the Highland neighborhood. And its form -- 320 foot-long, triple-rib beams arcing 70 feet over I-25 -- is designed as another display of downtown's emerging architectural beauty. But for skateboarders, the bridge is simply a kick-ass new spot. The concrete banks that anchor the bridge's pylons serve as natural ramps for all manner of flip tricks, and the plaza beneath the eastern base of the arch has ledges and manual pads that encourage creative skateboarding experiments that must be executed around cyclists and stroller-pushing yuppies. That's what we call bridging the gap.
With skatepark construction becoming a more formalized industry, it's easy to forget the sport's underground, do-it-yourself roots. But some of the most fun, inspired skate spots are built by the skaters themselves, wielding hammers and concrete trowels -- which is why the Colorado Coalition for Public Skateparks is campaigning to rebuild a concrete skatepark thirty miles east of Denver in Bennett. Skater volunteers from across the Front Range will do the work, under the supervision of renowned skatepark builder Team Pain. To raise the $30,000 needed for a bowl and street course, the squad has been selling custom pool tiles for $40 a section; it's already up to $12,000 in donations and grants. And, really, if you want something done right...
It was fated to be: The husband-and-wife team who run Colorado Skate University met in a skatepark. Their shared passion inspired them to open a school, which offers we-come-to-you lessons for boarders of all ages seeking to learn the ins and ollies of just about everything, from staying on your board to total super-shredding. And because half of the teaching staff is female and well-versed in the hardships that girls can face in the skateboarding world, the school is especially supportive of those learners. CSU also offers equipment rentals for beginners and birthday-party packages, complete with chocolate skateboards and goodie bags. That's sooo radical.
For serious BMX riders, the V isn't really a secret, but rather a legend going back nearly twenty years, to when freestyle bikers first began building dirt jumps in an Aurora gulley. Set amid tall trees and accessed only by a bike path, the spot's obscurity helped it survive while other locations were erased by development or closed off because of landowner liability issues. Not that there's anything safe about the V. Jumps include doubles that span thirty feet and a steep rhythm section made hard and quick by years of rolling rubber. The V has played host to local pros like Brian "Yellow" Gavagan, Clay Brown and Troy McMurray, as well as a slew of lesser-knowns and amateurs who marvel at the main jump, which is named for the V-shaped ravine that spits riders toward a perilous ten-foot step-up. Yes, V is for victory -- but also for victim.

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