Best Place to Take a Hike 2009 | The Flatirons | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Whether your closet looks like a Patagonia outlet store or you view hiking as a prelude to a coma-inducing brunch, Boulder's Flatirons should satisfy your hiking needs. The rocky Boulder foothills are easily accessible from busy Chautauqua Park, and a variety of trails offer challenges for experts and beginners alike, but each features access to the same winding terrain and sweeping vistas of Boulder. One of our favorites? The 3.5-mile Royal Arch trail, a moderately strenuous but totally doable climb that peaks at an impressive rock arch, from which you can see practically to Kansas. No matter which trail you choose, though, the area's opening salvo alone — a slow, steep climb out of the open park and into the denser hiking areas — will burn enough calories to make it through that brunch guilt-free.
The opening hole of Fossil Trace Golf Course sums things up: Rising from the middle of the fairway, about halfway through the beastly par-five, a strange rock formation juts from the earth. It looks like a middle finger, and it's a warning of what's to come: a unique, sometimes harrowing but always rewarding test of golf. The test continues for 6,800 yards (from the back tees), through the equally challenging par-five 18th, which hugs a lake all the way to the clubhouse. But while the course may take a big chunk of your confidence, it won't take too much from your wallet: Weekend, peak-season greens fees are less than $80 with a cart. And with the Great Depression Part Deux upon us, expect to find some discounts this season.
Stapleton may not have too many shade trees, but it has three public pools (the Aviator, the Puddle Jumper and the F-15) where overheated new-urbanists can cool off during the summer. Although all three can get crowded on the weekends, there are usually plenty of chairs and sufficient space to stretch out. The pools themselves are new and clean, and the areas around them feature grassy areas, barbecues and picnic tables. While Stapletonians get in free with a neighborhood resident card, the rest of city can enjoy the pools, too, at $3 for kids and $7 for adults. Oh, and you can bring in canned beer (no bottles, please), and they kick the kids out of the water every 45 minutes for adult swim time.
Like Chauncey Billups, Conor Casey is a local hero who's getting a chance to prove that you can go home again. He excelled for South High School before heading off to get his kicks beyond state lines, first at the University of Portland and then for a number of European squads, including Germany's Borussia Dortmund. By the time he was picked up by the Rapids in 2007, he seemed to be rounding into a journeyman — and a subsequent ACL injury didn't bode well. But despite missing part of the 2008 season, he led the team in scoring. Looks like Colorado agrees with him.
When wild-dunking, shot-blocking forward Chris Andersen disappeared from the NBA in 2006 because he tested positive for banned substances, NBA fans surely believed they'd seen the last of the man they called "Birdman." But after two years of banishment, Andersen returned to the league, and last off-season, he wound up back in Denver. Heavily tattooed, overly gelled and apparently substance-free, he's won back the hearts of Nuggets fan with his steady if sometimes spastic play, logging an average of six rebounds, six points and two blocks per game, and filling in a Nuggets puzzle that's close to complete.
Okay, seriously, it's time to get off your ass. But the gym is annoying, running is boring, and drinking heavily does not, sadly, qualify as exercise under today's far-too-stringent norms. So embrace your inner fifth-grader and log on to, where you'll find scores of leagues in sports ranging from the more serious flag football and softball to the free-spirited kickball and dodgeball. And if your friends are too lazy to form a team, you can sign up as a free agent, and a team with similarly lazy friends will add you to its roster. The leagues range in cost but are generally affordable; flag football, for example, costs $300 per team and $35 per individual — plus the cost of all the booze you'll buy after your games. Happy recreating!
At first blush, the Rockies' decision to give Garrett Atkins the equivalent of a $3 million raise for the 2009 season seems screwy, given that his RBI production and batting average are down from their levels during the previous two campaigns. But his digits remain solid — he drove in 99 runs and hit .286 in 2008 — and he's capable of spraying the ball all over the field (and often beyond the wall). Just as important, he's a defensive stalwart and a steady presence in a lineup in which stability is key. With Matt Holliday gone and a pitching staff with far more question marks than exclamation points, the team needs Atkins now more than ever.
Dare we call the new Colorado Springs skatepark the best in Colorado? That's quite an assertion in a state considered to have one of the highest concentrations of quality skate parks in the nation. But skaters, bladers and BMXers have been voting with their wheels since the spot opened in January, and the consensus seems to be "Hell, yeah!" The Springs government did everything right by choosing a great location in the centralized Memorial Park and handing the design and construction to Florida-based builders Team Pain. What they ended up with was a 40,000-square-foot, $1 million outdoor masterpiece packed full of perfectly formed bowls, stairs, rails and wacky little features no one thought of before. Finally, a reason to go to Colorado Springs.
Since this winter's unseasonably warm weather never gave Denver's free Ruby Hill Rail Yard a chance to open, the next best thing to free is Echo Mountain. Even if you missed out on the pre-season sale of $129 season passes, a lift ticket at Echo still won't put you back too much: It's $43 — or $29 if you just want to catch a few late afternoon and evening runs. That's less than half what the Summit County resorts charge, and you'll save a lot on gas and traffic time, too, since Echo is only 35 miles outside of Denver. Yes, it does cater to a core audience of sick riders, but it's also got some excellent groomers — now accessed by a new magic carpet — for kids and transplants to learn on, terrain made even more attractive by the fact that beginner-only lift tickets sell for just $19
The casual hockey watcher knows Haynes best for his epic freakouts following game-winning Avalanche goals — happy events that have been in short supply this season. But despite his reputation, he's far from a one-trick screamer. His knowledge of the game is as wide as it is deep, and he's got an impeccable sense of pace and dynamics. He understands when to speed up, when to slow down, when to shift into overdrive, and when to put it in park, and this aptitude continues to serve him well as the team he's paid to watch plays out the string. The Avs have struggled through their worst season, but Haynes has quietly had his finest.

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