Copper Mountain Resort

To push progression in the sport and keep pace with pioneering riders like Shaun White, the International Olympic Committee super-sized its snowboard halfpipe specs in time for the winter games last February, ditching the eighteen-foot transitions of yesteryear for a longer, steeper pipe with 22-foot walls. Copper beat every other resort in the Northern Hemisphere to get its early-season superpipe open in time for the first event of the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix (White won it), then maintained it all season. To truly appreciate the magnitude of White's double-cork 1260 — he's calling it "The Tomahawk" — try dropping in on Main Vein to get your blood pumping. It's big. Real big.

Best Guess for When Colorado Will Host the Shannon Sharpe Will Be Elected to the Hall of Fame

2011

Shannon Sharpe was the greatest tight end who ever played when he retired in 2003 —  yet he still hasn't made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a curse that has excluded at least half a dozen worthy Denver Broncos. But we think that wait will come to an end in 2011, when Sharpe, who became the first tight end to catch for more than 10,000 yards and retired with more touchdowns (62) than any other player at that position, will be enshrined two years after becoming eligible. Why? That's how long the loquacious No. 84 spent playing for the Ravens before returning to the Mile High City.

How do you take the measure of a mascot? Is it the ability to pump up the crowd when the game's going badly? Is it athleticism, creativity or community involvement? Is it cuddliness, orneriness or just plain silliness? Or is it the ability to kick the snot out of the other mascots during the annual UCA Mascot National Championships (including that darned Big Jay from the University of Kansas)? It's all of those things, which is why Chip, the University of Colorado's costumed buffalo, has won that contest two years running and earned his place among the animal elite.

Aqua Golf

It's easy to make a miniature golf course kitschy for the kids. The challenge with Aqua Golf, part of the City of Denver's Overland Golf Course complex, was making it amusing for families but also interesting for golfers who want to work on their putting after hitting balls at the driving range. So when the city dumped $2.8 million into the site, they made sure the two eighteen-hole mini-golf courses bridged the divide between tike- and Tiger-friendly, opting for sand traps and water hazards over windmills and ball-eating clowns but also including plenty of fun little tricks to keep the little people guessing. The result is the city's best mini-golf course — kid-tested, father-approved.

Bluff Lake Nature Center

The bluff has a long and storied history as a gawker's paradise. Twenty years ago, Havana Way was the street where Denver teenagers parked to get stoned and make out while watching airplanes take off and land on the east-west runways of Stapleton International Airport. Today, the Bluff Lake Nature Center, located on the same road, is a place for families to go for an evening of marshmallow-roasting over a campfire while watching wildlife cavort before an uninterrupted panoramic view of the Front Range. The summertime schedule of fireside chats features a wide range of speakers covering everything from folk stories to frogs. From your campfire seat at sunset, see why this spot has been the ideal setting to watch the comings and goings of (wild)life in Denver.

Sure, it's popular, but it's popular for a reason. With its eponymous four passes (West Maroon, Frigid Air, Trail Rider, and Buckskin) totaling roughly 10,000 feet of elevation gain over 28 miles in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, the Four Pass Loop requires three days, including one grueling stretch that covers two passes. The workout pays off, however, in the form of superlative views dominated by red rock, green leaves, and blue sky, not to mention the crystalline alpine lakes teeming with trout.

Monarch Ski & Snowboard Area

Available for $289 pre-season, the Monarch Mountain Pass gives you unlimited access to Monarch, plus three free days each at Loveland, Sunlight Mountain, Durango and Powderhorn, one free day at Silverton and three free days each at Angel Fire, Pajarito and Sipapu in New Mexico. This nifty deal also nets you half-price lift tickets at Alta in Utah and free lift tickets at Grand Targhee in Wyoming if you pay for lodging. The cash value of the first seven freebies? Over $1,000 in 2009-10 lift-ticket prices. Oh, and you avoid I-70 for most of the season. Can you put a price on that?

Looking for a sick stick made within an ecologically sustainable shipping distance of your favorite resort? Look no further than Never Summer's Heritage Series boards, made in a north Denver warehouse. This year's model featured a woolly mammoth repping the Colorado state banner; next year's boards will have a bald eagle flying the flag. Now that the snowboard industry has mostly farmed out production to China, these boards hit happily close to home.

Best Guess for When the Broncos Will Return to the Super Bowl

2016

The Broncos back in the Super Bowl? It's not happening anytime soon, and here's why: Josh McDaniels. He's demonstrated that he knows the game, but his XXL ego will keep tripping him up, as he proved when he ran defensive coordinator Mike Nolan out of town, and when he convinced himself that he could reverse Brady Quinn's horribleness. He'll go on to be a fine coach, but it will happen after he flames out in Denver and is replaced by someone whose bravado won't dent the floorboards. Then, and only then, will the Broncos be back in the Super Bowl.

Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Scott Hastings knows Colorado sports. The former Denver Nuggets player has been a very visible part — he stands 6' 10" and is very recognizable — of the sports broadcasting scene here for more than fifteen years. He's also very busy, providing TV color commentary for Nuggets broadcasts and co-hosting a daily radio sports talk show on 104.3/The Fan. And although he can sometimes act clownish on the air, his aw-shucks demeanor and stumbling style of speaking is infused with a winking sense of humor, mostly insightful analysis, and honest, often brutally accurate assessments of local players and teams.

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