Saddle Rock Golf Course

Public golf must be measured by value, and few courses in the metro area combine the value, character and playing conditions of Saddle Rock. Built in 1997, the course — tucked into the southeast corner of Aurora — features 7,351 yards of well-manicured rolling plains, with large elevation changes and swaths of ravine making it a challenge from every tee box. It's riddled with memorable holes, including the short-but-sweet second, the enormous par-five sixth, the water-guarded ninth...and that's just the front side. The back is just as fun, and with greens fees peaking at $36, playing all eighteen is a steal at any time, on any day.

Forney Museum of Transportation

The Forney Museum of Transportation is an often-overlooked Denver attraction, featuring one of the world's largest locomotives, early electric-car prototypes and other eccentric vehicles. What makes it even cooler? The kitsch-tastic Denver Wax Museum, closed to the public in 1981, lives on inside the Forney like some sort of creepy alien symbiote. The Forney purchased the wax museum's figures when it shut down and has installed them among its exhibits. A bug-eyed Amelia Earhart sits in the actual "Gold Bug" Kissel Speedster she made famous, and Mark Twain and Huck Finn snuggle up in a corner. All that's missing is General George Custer cruising by in a Rolls-Royce.

Thunder Valley

Thunder Valley Motocross Park is not merely the best place to rev your engines around Denver; the 130-acre facility is among the best in the world, which is why it was picked to host the Red Bull FIM Motocross of Nations in September, only the third time the 64-year-old event has ever been held in the United States. Thunder Valley will also host several major events this year, making for the best motocross spectating in the state. And the track is open year-round to local riders Wednesday through Sunday. Start on the kids' track, work up to the intermediate option, then head to the big show to start chasing those trophy dreams.

Purgatory Resort

In December, Purgatory expanded its expert terrain offerings by 30 percent with the opening of 125 acres of steep new tree-skiing runs known as the Legends and serviced by the Legends lift. McCormack's Maze and Hoody's — named for Durango's senior VP of mountain operations Mike McCormack and VP of base area operations Jim "Hoody" Hards — represent the first phase of the first expansion at Purgatory in more than twenty years. To clear the new terrain, the resort used an environmentally friendly "lop-and-scatter" method, following U.S. Forest Service guidelines to cut only standing dead timber, hazard timber and non-merchantable timber less than six inches in diameter, and leaving the cut trees on the forest floor to eliminate the need for heavy machinery and enhance wildlife habitat. Translation? It's tight in there. Watch out for that tree!

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.

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