Best Halfpipe 2013 | Vail | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Vail celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this season — as well as the 25th anniversary of the day snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton persuaded the ski area to allow snowboarders on the hill — by hiring Snow Park Technologies to build the longest and steepest 22-foot superpipe on the international competition circuit. Olympic gold-medalists Shaun White and Kelly Clark took top honors at the U.S. Open — surprise, surprise — but the real winners were the locals who got to ride it all season.

Talk about a no-brainer. John Grant Jr. isn't just the most valuable player on the Mammoth. He's been the most valuable player for the entire National Lacrosse League for two consecutive seasons. And that's appropriate, since he set a new single-season points record (116!) despite missing a couple of games due to a fractured sternum — an injury that no doubt caused him a great deal of pain even after he was cleared to play again. Now that he's back to full health, can we expect even greater things from him? That'd be tough in light of his achievements over the past couple of seasons. But it'll be fun watching him try.

Rocky has ruled the Denver mascots roost since the era when he was pretty much the only reason to pay attention during the second half of Nuggets games, and he's become such an institution that players from other teams are eager to bask in his limelight. Witness Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, who had the gall to block a couple of Rocky's trademark over-the-head backwards shots during time-outs — an act of villainy that made Nugs fans despise him even more than they already did.

Winter Park's Trestle Bike Park puts the resort so far ahead of other ski areas wrangling to offer off-season adventure that it might just as well be dubbed Summer Park. The bike park is open daily from mid-June through late September, with up to three chairlifts spinning during peak hours to service a vast network of singletrack trails, downhill bombers and terrain-park features all but guaranteed to push your bike, body armor and helmet to the limits. No, seriously: Pad up. Bob Holme, a former Winter Olympic Nordic ski jumper who is also responsible for the resort's winter ski and snowboard terrain parks, is the man behind the madness, and Trestle Bike Park events like the Colorado Freeride Festival have helped move the sport so far that Mountain Bike Slopestyle will make its debut as an X Games medal event this summer at in Munich.

Last September's inaugural Pedal the Plains couldn't have gone better. The three-day ride through the close-knit communities of Colorado's eastern plains inspired plenty of people to trade in the painful slow climbs and downhill rocketing of mountain marathons for the flat roads of the prairie and its anachronistic small-town atmosphere. A focus on history and heritage made it fun for all ages, as did the folksy off-road activities dreamed up for the evenings by event maven Dana Cain. Go east: The second annual Pedal the Plains rolls on September 20 through 22; this year's route will be announced in late April.

Why ex-Morehead State standout Kenneth Faried fell to the 22nd pick in the 2011 NBA draft despite an astonishingly electric performance at that year's NCAA men's basketball tournament is beyond us. But we couldn't be happier. Faried is energy personified, consistently outworking and out-hustling everyone on the floor at any given time — and while he's still prone to defensive lapses and focus drifts, rim-rattling dunks and impossible rebounds against much bigger players make up for a multitude of sins. As a bonus, Manimal is a positive presence off the court, too.

Named for astronaut Scott Carpenter, this park features a pool, a skate park and a rocket-ship playground, but that's only a place where kids can blast off. When it snows, locals converge on the long, wide hill with their saucers and sleds to get in on the free fun that comes with living in Colorado.

If you think elections don't matter, then consider the past. In May 1912, Denver citizens went to the polls and voted in favor of a mill levy, backed by Mayor Robert Speer, that provided funding for the acquisition of a park system in the foothills and mountains where people could go to get away from city life. Today that system includes 14,000 acres spread out among 46 properties in four counties, including Genesee Mountain Park, home to a small bison herd, Red Rocks Park, home to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Winter Park Ski Resort and Summit Lake, high up on Mount Evans. In 2012, the city celebrated the hundredth anniversary of Denver Mountain Parks. Here's to one hundred more.

Brendan Mundorf is nothing if not consistent. He's either led or tied for the lead in scoring on the Outlaws each season since 2007. And his efforts show no sign of trailing off. His offensive totals from last year (32 goals, 27 assists and 59 points) were considerably higher than those he registered in 2011 (thirty goals, 15 assists and 45 points). This upward trajectory has gotten him noticed throughout the Major League Lacrosse circuit: He was named the 2012 Most Valuable Player, and deservedly so. No one's scored more often in Denver Outlaws history, and with each game, he makes it that much harder for the next guy to exceed his mark.

Confluence Park, on the banks of the South Platte River, may be better known for sunbathing, people watching and kayaking, but this urban park rises above the rest for one important reason when it comes to picnics: the distinct absence of goose poop. While many of Denver's other green spaces are blanketed in the stuff, Confluence doesn't suffer from the same fowl problem.

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