Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Between increasingly heavy traffic and Texans who'll never learn how to maneuver in snow, the drive up I-70 has become a double diamond, the toughest run you might make all day. All aboard the Ski Train! This Denver tradition got its start generations ago, when kids in the Eskimo Ski Club met up at Union Station for the trip by train to Winter Park; it was resurrected in the late 1980s, when Phil Anschutz acquired the train along with its parent company, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. Over the past twenty years, the train has gotten a complete overhaul, including new cars with comfortable seating and bars, and it's also expanded its schedule from just weekends to include Fridays in February and Thursdays in March. No matter the weather, the Ski Train pushes on, depositing you at the base of Winter Park, Denver's own ski area. But the real treat is the return trip, when you can ride — and drink — in style while I-70 drivers just spin their wheels.
Hot rod culture lives in Golden! From May until October, every first Saturday of the month, classic-car enthusiasts and John Milner wannabes roll up their sleeves and rev up their old cherry wheels to cruise up and down Golden Road. The action begins at 6 p.m. near an overcrowded Sonic Drive-In parking lot at 17191 South Golden Road; then, around 7:30, there's a group cruise into downtown Golden, with DJ Van Jeffries doing his Wolfman Jack from a van. Go on: Rediscover your inner Curt.
Hikes need not be relegated to weekends and vacations. What better way to de-stress after a long workday than by taking in a sunset on a brisk scenic walk? Alderfer/Three Sisters Park is close enough to get to in forty minutes and far enough to feel like an escape from the city. Part of the Jefferson County Open Space program, it's anchored by the rock formations known as the Three Sisters and The Brother, which overlook Bear Creek Basin. The park boasts over ten miles of trails, with most in the half- to two-mile range. Sisters, which weaves through large boulders for just over a mile, is the most strenuous. But keep your eyes open and leave the iPod at home, because it's a popular trail for mountain bikers, too.
Colorado hockey lovers were in a state of bliss when the Avalanche brought back icons Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote earlier this year. But because of their age, not to mention Forsberg's physical condition, neither can be considered long-term solutions for what ails the team — a fact reinforced in early March when both got hurt. Paul Stastny, in contrast, is the team's future. He's just 22 and looks about twelve, but he's developed into a prolific force around the net, leading the team in points, goals and assists despite his own stretch on injured reserve. Forsberg and Foote, as well as fellow elder Joe Sakic, who's also had some mending to do of late, will play a major part in determining how far the Avs go this season. As for Stastny, he'll be key in 2008 and hopefully for years to come.
Who needs sand and water when you've got snow and sunshine? The Beach at A-Basin is simply the place where snow meets parking lot, but it's become a legend in its own right. In years gone by, it was a venue for wild parties as people camped and tailgated overnight to get first tracks in the morning. It's said that people even pulled stunts like hiking up the mountain with a couch on skis. The scene has mellowed since then — you can't camp out anymore — but you can reserve a parking spot. So when spring comes, it's an idyllic place to pull in, turn up the stereo, set up your lawn chairs and grill, throw a couple of beers on ice — or snow — and spend a day at the beach.
During their glory days, the Broncos had plenty of players who were arguably the finest at their position in the NFL. Now they've got just one: Champ Bailey. Because of the Broncs' erratic, all-too-often anemic pass rush last season, the appropriately named Champ didn't rack up the interceptions he'd earned in years past. But he hasn't lost a step, and he remains a smart, instinctive defender, a vicious hitter and a role model for his teammates professionally and personally. As a bonus, he lured one of the team's most important off-season acquisitions: linebacker Boss Bailey, his talented younger brother. If there are any more Baileys like these two, send 'em over.
Kathy McConnell-Miller faced a tough task when she took over as the Lady Buffs' coach in 2005. Not only did she have to replace legendary predecessor Ceal Barry, but from a talent standpoint, the cupboard was bare. During the three seasons since then, however, the team has improved from respective records of 9-21 and 13-17 during her first two years to a 16-14 mark and a bid to the National Invitation Tournament to cap her third. Better yet, she's got a large returning cast, with just two seniors on the 2007-2008 roster. The onetime powerhouse is on its way back to respectability, and McConnell-Miller is a big reason why.
In April 2007, when Clint Hurdle received a two-year contract extension, a significant portion of the Rockies nation was agog. In most major-league cities, doubters argued, a skipper with a putrid .447 winning percentage would have been given the heave-ho, not guaranteed employment for two more seasons. But Hurdle proved his worth during the roller-coaster campaign that followed, keeping the team from cratering during the dreadful early months and preventing players from losing their heads after the wins began piling up. Critics may gripe about some of his in-game moves, but his good humor and prodigious skills as a motivator and communicator make him the right manager at the right time.
The combination of singers Britney Spears and Whitney Houston sounds nightmarish, given that both performers have turned into walking/talking versions of E! True Hollywood Story. But the basketballing Spears and Houston make a much more effective pair, with Brittany, a freshman, ending the 2007-2008 season as the Lady Buffs' second-leading scorer, and Whitney, a sophomore, providing steady play off the bench. Of course, ESPN produced a segment on the pair because of their famous monikers, not their ability to dribble and shoot. But if things keep going the way they did this season, they'll soon be making names for themselves.
The Crush boasts a seasoned quarterback, John Dutton, and a corps of effective receivers, including Brad Pyatt, a University of Northern Colorado product who's returned to the state where he got his start. Still, the reason for the organization's popularity remains a man who hasn't played a down for the team: co-owner John Elway. Number 7 is a relentless salesman for the Arena Football League in general and the Crush in particular, as the team's website acknowledges: A photo of Big John gets more prominent play on the home page than anyone currently wearing a helmet and pads. Fans can't see him throw touchdown passes anymore, but sharing an arena with him is the next best thing.
There comes a time every winter when you reach the brink of madness. You've had enough of snow sports and snow in general, and you just want to put on shorts and play in the sand. A trip to The Island is what you need. With year-round indoor sand volleyball, it's as close to summer as anything you're going to find in Colorado during the winter months. The food is good, and cheap. The drink specials are plentiful, the people are friendly, and there's lots of action to take in. While Denver does have a cult-like group of serious players who eat, sleep and breathe volleyball — playing every night in clothing straight outta Margaritaville — casual players are welcome, too. They can opt to play backyard-style 6 on 6 instead of the ultra-competitive and exhausting 2 on 2. A lot of the action is league play, but drop-ins happen most days. The Island serves up summer all year round.
If you're already the kind of skier who wakes up before sunrise to beat traffic and be the first in line for the yet-unopened lifts, this deal might be worth a shot. For an extra $20 a day above your lift-ticket price, or in addition to your season pass, you can load the American Eagle lift fifteen minutes earlier than your cash-poor peers and get the day's very first fresh tracks. The extra $20 will also get you into Copper's version of HOV lanes at the American Eagle, American Flyer, Super Bee, Excelerator, Kokomo, High Point and Timberline Express lifts for the rest of the day. It's a good way to buy time and spend less of it in line.