Best Place to Wear Out Your Kids 2012 | Great Play | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

What do you do when you need to burn off some steam? A lot of us check in at the gym. The idea behind Great Play is that, in an age when we're being bombarded with news about childhood obesity, maybe the kids should be doing the same. That's the whole point of the national franchise operation, which recently made its debut in the Denver area. Unlike other sport facilities for kids (specifically, kids ages six months through elementary-school age), Great Play offers a number of programs under one roof, from age-specific classes to open gym time, when children can just untether after a morning of too much TV. Also — and of great importance to the founders of Great Play, Englewood residents Keith and Jyl Camhi — is the non-competitive bent of the instruction, which encourages children to have fun first, and to learn specific skills (how to throw a ball or swing a bat, for example) in easy increments. It's their way of proving that exercise is good for you and therefore something worth encouraging; the goal of the Great Play method is to make it a natural part of kids' lives as they grow. The Colorado Boulevard gym is the first of several planned in the state (another will be opening in Highlands Ranch soon). In gymnastics vernacular, Great Play sticks it!

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Slaves to the snow report found themselves salivating over the stats from Silverton Mountain this season, where forty-inch dumps were dropping while the rest of the state's resorts sat high and dry. Silverton is a seven-hour drive from Denver even when it's not snowing, so if you're making the trek, go ahead and book at least one ride in the helicopter while you're at it: The Silverton Guides' Heli Ski/Heli Board adventures start at $159 per run on top of the cost of a daily lift ticket, but it'll be the best money you've ever spent if you've been dreaming of carving big-mountain lines and taking face shots in shoulder-deep powder.

Former Bronco Alfred "Big Al" Williams and co-host Darren "D-Mac" McKee each have their own shtick on The Drive — and it works. In fact, Big Al's buffoonish, Madden-esque approach belies a deep knowledge of Denver sports and keeps D-Mac's sharp opinions and bluster in check. The two have an excellent rapport with one another, they refrain from shouting, and, yes, they stick to sports. Although their show lost former Bronco and ESPN personality Mark Schlereth when 104.3 lost the rights to ESPN broadcasts, Big Al and D-Mac have kept it going and kept fans informed, and intrigued, in a sports-crazy town.

Readers' Choice: The Drive

The team's leading goal-scorer from last season was one of only three players to suit up for every game. And even though the Rapids couldn't repeat their championship run from the previous season, Jeff Larentowicz played the full ninety minutes in all three playoff games. He also notched his second career brace — when a player scores two goals in one game — last year against the New York Red Bulls.

Readers' Choice: Conor Casey

It's about to get all baseball nerdy up in here: In 2011, star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki posted the second-best WAR of his career. The obscure stat — also known as Wins Above Replacement — measures the amount of wins a player is worth to his team. In fact, according to this stat, Tulo was more than twice as valuable as any other member of the Rockies. So, thanks, baseball geeks, and thanks for not mentioning his hair.

Readers' Choice: Troy Tulowitzki

Julie "Angela Death" Adams is a wrecking ball of a lead jammer with both the Green Barrettes (her Denver Roller Dolls home team) and the Mile High Club traveling all-stars squad. But it's the "Look out, here I come!" grimace she assumes as she's breaking away from the pack in her speed-skater's crouch that has also made her one of the most frequently photographed skaters in Colorado. Seriously, get out of her way.

Roller derby names have the dual requirement of striking fear in the hearts of lesser opponents while making them giggle. Boo Boo Radley, aka Deirdre Sage of the Denver Roller Dolls, accomplishes both — and manages a To Kill a Mockingbird reference, to boot.

Tracy Akers, aka "Disco," started skating with the Denver Roller Dolls in 2005 and is now a co-captain of the Mile High Club, DRD's traveling team. She won 2011 Triple Threat pivot/blocker/jammer honors at the Roller Dolls' year-end awards ceremony for her all-around talent, but what puts her ahead of the pack is her head for in-the-moment strategy during the game itself, which has gotten more involved as roller derby's rulebooks have grown up over the last few years. "Akers is tough, physical, strong and athletic, but what separates her is her game awareness," says Justin Campoy, bench coach of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby team. Which won the 2011 Women's Flat Track Derby Association Championships at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield in November. "She's the Kasparov of roller derby. She'd be very good at chess boxing if she took it up."

Readers' Choice: Brandi Homan

Why bother choosing local league loyalties when the best roller derby team in the world this year featured skaters from both the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls and the Denver Roller Dolls? Portia "Frida Beater" Hensley, a star of the RMRG 5280 Fight Club traveling team, led Team USA into battle as a co-captain when the squad rolled into Toronto in December for the inaugural Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup. She was joined by her pseudonymous 5280 Fight Club teammates Amanda Jamitinya, DeRanged, Psycho Babble and Urrk'n Jerk'n, plus two of her crosstown rivals — Tracy "Disco" Akers and Heather Juska, of the DRD Mile High Club — as well as top skaters from leagues across the country. The rest of the world wasn't quite ready for all that: Team USA decimated squads from New Zealand, Scotland, Australia and Canada in a series of show-no-mercy victories on the way to winning the World Cup. The next World Cup is in 2014, which should give the other teams plenty of time to let their bruises heal.

The massive new 40,000-square-foot Arvada Skate Park was designed and built by the skater-owned Team Pain Skate Parks crew and overseen by local skater James Hedrick as part of the first phase of development at Gibbs West Community Park. Approximately 97 percent of the $2.1 million price tag was funded by grants from the Tony Hawk Foundation, Colorado Lottery, Great Outdoors Colorado and Jefferson County Open Space, and it was worth every penny. The park caters to skaters of all levels and persuasions, featuring bowls both big and small, a long and flowing snake run, granite ledges, handrail/stair sets, and some of the most innovative, sculptural features and architectural landscape designs we've ever seen, including a few that we weren't sure what to make of until we started seeing local skaters getting creative out there. Even if you don't skate, this is worth a look.

Readers' Choice: Denver Skatepark

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