All right, so Pat Bowlen isn't a GM. But no personnel move will make a bigger impact — and, we believe, a more positive impact — on the Denver sporting landscape then Bowlen's dispatching of Mike Shanahan, Bowlen's close friend and a Denver legend. Although new coach Josh McDaniels hasn't exactly endeared himself to Denver fans so far by pissing off QB Jay Cutler, firing Shanny was still a much-needed move that took serious stones. Shanahan's recent draft choices were questionable, his defense was dreadful and things were getting stale. We're hoping that changes soon.
Keystone Resort
Keystone Facebook page
Let's face it: Except for those elite few who hike for fresh tracks, most of us skiers and riders who prefer to stay in the lift-served inbounds can be a pretty lazy bunch. That's why we've chosen a sport that lets us ride up the hill while sitting in a chair and then coast downhill. The most physically taxing part of the day is the walk from the parking lot to the first chair and back. And this season, Keystone made that walk a little easier. Its gondola used to require a hike over the bridge and up a short hill before loading, but not anymore. The new eight-passenger River Run Gondola uses the same footprint, except that it stretches a little bit farther so that skiers can load in the village, right across from where lift tickets are sold. Not only is the new gondola faster, but it encourages people to download at the end of the day rather than ski down River Run, where the entire resort used to funnel out in one massive 4 p.m. traffic jam. Now those who want to get in that last, crunchy run don't have to weave through an obstacle course of stalled beginners.
24-Hour Fitness Super Sport
You know your gym? It's pretty big, right? Has everything you need? Well imagine your gym was three times the size, had four times as much equipment to make you sweat, plus racquetball courts, two pools, eight basketball hoops, and locker rooms fit for Carmelo. That pretty much describes the new 24-Hour Fitness in Aurora, a fitness maven's Taj Mahal near the corner of Parker and Arapahoe roads. At 90,000 square feet, it's the largest 24-Hour Fitness in Colorado — and among the biggest in the country. It's busy but never packed, clean but not stuffy, and it's got a juice bar. Go forth and get sweaty.
The 700-acre Big Burn area is one of the most popular spots at Snowmass for its combination of rolling intermediate cruisers and expert glades. But for years, most of the traffic has been concentrated on the west side, served by the Big Burn high speed quad, while the east side has been underutilized because skiers were reluctant to hop on the unbearably slow Sheer Bliss two-seater built in 1975. The lift was so unpopular — especially in cold and windy weather — that the resort only ran it on weekends and busy days. That all changed in November with the opening of the $7 million Sheer Bliss detachable quad. The new, re-aligned lift takes skiers up 2,212 vertical feet — 155 higher than it used to in nine minutes instead of sixteen — and it can carry 2,000 people in an hour, twice as many as before, thus easing congestion on the west side and introducing the east side to a whole new audience of riders.
Telluride Ski Resort
Though it might sound like the creation of a clever marketing pro, Revelation is actually the longtime name of this bowl overlooking the Bear Creek Basin. Above treeline, wide open and situated on a northeastern aspect so that it gathers huge amounts of snow from Telluride's predominantly westerly storms, Revelation Bowl sits directly off the back side of the famous Gold Hill and Chair 14. It's long been the envy of skiers standing atop the mountain, looking for a less traveled path. Now, with the addition of the Revelation quad lift, the resort has opened up 52 new acres of variable terrain. Ridgelines in either direction offer steep pitches and rock features, while the center has rolling advanced terrain and even a groomed cruising path. But it's the breathtaking scenery — views of La Junta Peak, Wasatch Mountain, the San Joaquin Ridge and the San Sophia Range, which looks down on the town of Telluride — that gave Revelation Bowl its name and makes it a place worth celebrating.
Pepsi Center
Basketball isn't an individual game — or at least not at its best. But the addition of a single player can make an enormous difference, as Chauncey Billups proved when he joined the Nuggets early this season. In a matter of days, the Nugs were defending better, sharing the ball more often, passing up contested shots to get their teammates better ones, demonstrating discipline rather than a lack thereof, and generally playing like a team. Granted, he's not a miracle worker, as a late-season skid has demonstrated. But he's improved the Nuggets more by his own excellent example than even the biggest fans in his home town might have dreamed.
Washington Park
Flickr/Jeffrey Beall
You can keep your sandy beaches and squeaky hard courts; for our money, the best volleyball is played on grass — shirtless and shoeless, in the sun — where you're still able to run and jump (unlike on the beach, where even decently athletic players are rendered virtual invalids). There are plenty of places to play, but none is more convenient or idyllic than Washington Park. On nice days, the park's grass becomes a sea of fluorescent nets and flying bodies, with several matches going at once. And for those who like structure, there's some method to the madness: Games are often organized beforehand, at http://volleyball.meetup.com.
Red Rocks is one. So are Winter Park and Genesee Park (where the city's buffalo roam), Echo Lake, at the foot of Mount Evans, and Lookout Mountain, home to the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. In fact, the Denver Mountain Parks system, created in 1912, includes 47 unusual properties totaling 14,000 acres. Because of their location outside the city, however, the parks have been underfunded. But that's changing, two quarters at a time. Beginning this year, the parks will get 50 cents from every Red Rocks ticket sold and use the money to create trail maps and make much-needed upgrades. The best part: Most of the parks are free. So get out of town and enjoy Denver!
Outdoor Divas
Outdoor Divas prides itself on catering specifically to sporty women and the understanding that what works for the gander isn't always good for the goose. That's why these women's gear shops now feature women-specific snowboards from Colorado's Never Summer Industries and other major manufacturers. Aside from just being pretty, these boards sport features designed to increase flexibility and accommodate a better fit for smaller feet. Just the thing for cunning carvers.
There are plenty of quality miles to pedal on the Front Range, but you didn't buy that trick, free-riding dual suspension just to ride the foothills. The Monarch Crest trail is one of the finest rides on the planet; starting at over 11,000 feet in elevation and running along some jaw-dropping sections of the Continental Divide, it's not your average Sunday ride, so true that wheel, fill up your hydration pack, and make sure you've been doing your cardio for the past two months. You'll experience above-treeline grandeur, killer switchbacks that laser through dense alpine forests, and a descent that offers nearly 7,000 feet of now-would-be-an-excellent-time-to-adjust-my-brakes singletrack. There are even a number of shuttle-for-hire options outside of Poncha Springs that will do the driving for you, so you can spend more of your day feeling like a god with a handlebar, not some lost, citified touron in a Subaru. Just make sure you pack oxygen if you haven't been hitting the StairMaster, because this is a mile high times two.

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