Best Gear on the Cheap 2014 | Wilderness Exchange Unlimited | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Located across from Denver's flagship REI store, Wilderness Exchange Unlimited feels like a smaller version of its retail neighbor, a two-story temple to skis, backpacks, boots, climbing gear and everything else you need for playing in the mountains. But unlike REI, Wilderness Exchange specializes in sniffing out cheap deals on overstock, seconds and lightly used consignments and passing them on to customers, so you can get shred-ready without shredding your credit rating in the process. The shop's knowledgeable staff and generous demo program, which lets patrons test-drive six ski setups for $120, makes deciding where to sink your money a snap.

Skaters, bikers, rollerbladers and even those confused kids riding scooters were given a wonderful gift when Arvada brought in Team Pain to build the Arvada Skate Park. The park, located in the northeast corner of Arvada's Memorial Park, comprises features for all skill levels, from first-time pushers to seasoned thrashers, and there's a street section with handrails, stair gaps, bank-to curbs, and original banked walls that fit perfectly in the landscape of the allotted area. The transition portion of the park, which includes a snake run meandering from one end to the other, offers deep vert-bowls separated by a spine, halfpipes ranging from three feet to ten feet, and enough flow to maintain a solid run throughout the entire course without pushing.

It's no accident that two of the five Olympic ski and snowboard qualifiers were held at Breckenridge in the lead-up to Sochi, or that many of the top competitors — American and otherwise — have made Breck their home mountain. And it's not just the pro courses and the experts-only Freeway park that pass muster: Breck's terrain-park system topped Freeskier magazine's Top 10 list for the third year in a row, with nods to beginner parks Bonanza and Trygve's and the "intermediate" Park Lane's features (including 20- to 45-foot gap jumps, ahem). Ready to really send it? Freeway is as good as it gets.

The sloppy, slushy ditch that helped dethrone Shaun White at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi had nearly all of the top competitors clamoring for better conditions, and the name that kept coming up was Snow Park Technologies. The Nevada-based company was responsible for the courses at the Dew Tour, X Games and Burton U.S. Open this year, with nary a complaint. Our honors go to Vail's Burton U.S. Open pipe on Golden Peak, however, for helping to send Colorado's own Taylor Gold to the top of the podium. The Steamboat Springs local missed the cut for the finals with a fourteenth-place finish in Sochi, but found redemption two weeks later in front of his friends and family back home in a perfect pipe under a clear blue sky. Is it time to finally bring the Winter Olympics to Colorado?

Ready to step up your big-air game but not to accept the looming consequences of landing on your head? Work on your aerial awareness (and your cojones) at Progresh before taking new tricks out into the real world. The indoor ski, snowboard, BMX and skateboarding facility opened in Thornton in 2013, offering a full schedule of classes, camps, private lessons and drop-in sessions, as well as field-trip-friendly group activities and corporate team-building sessions. But the facility's main attraction is an indoor airbag that was made specifically for action-sports training — and soft landings. Progresh also features trampolines, skate ramps and a digital editing room for dialing in those mid-air selfies.

Best Place to Add "Spoice" to Your Olympic Training Regimen

Woodward at Copper

Olympic gold-medalist Sage Kotsenburg set out to prove that it would take more than triple-cork spins to win big when snowboard slopestyle made its Olympic debut in Sochi, tossing unconventional layback slides and a 1620 spin with a Japan grab into the mix, just because. Kotsenburg called his secret sauce "spoice" in a now-notorious tweet and post-Olympic media blitz. Want to find your own spoice recipe? Start in the Barn at Woodward at Copper, an indoor training facility that was overhauled in 2013 and now features six different ramps launching into foam pits, the better to perfect your "Holy Crail" grab. The renovations also added a new street course and a wooden pump track to the existing trampolines, skate bowl and other features. The secret is out.

Taking its cue from some of the more extreme obstacle-course races for adults, the Keen Kids Adventure Games at Vail sends pairs of kids, ages six to fourteen, careening across mountain-bike trails, ziplining across a creek before tubing down it, and getting all manner of dirty in challenges that include a slackline over a mud pit, a giant Tarzan-style swing and an enormous slip-and-slide down a ski slope. Teams typically finished the 2013 course with times in the 45-minute-to-two-hour range, gleefully exhausted and ready to throw their sneakers in the trash. The 2014 race will be held August 6 through 10.

The 2013-2014 season was good for powder hounds, and Aspen-based High Society Freeride had the perfect planks for the job. The aptly named Powchickawowwow is available in both rocker and early-rise models, depending on your preference, but the rocker version is more playful in deep snow; both were Freeskier magazine's editor's picks this season, for the third year in a row. Better yet, both models are handmade in Denver by Never Summer Industries and feature Colorado-flag art to bring the point home. Late to the game? High Society's website has the price slashed nearly in half for a tenth-anniversary special running until next year's model takes its place.

Best Boards for Locavores — Snowboard


Watching the Olympic debut of women's snowboard slopestyle in Sochi seems to have inspired a lot of ladies to step it up in Colorado's terrain parks. Never Summer's new Onyx park board — handmade in Denver just for women — emerged as a favorite stick for the trick, winning a "Good Wood" editor's-choice nod from TransWorld SNOWboarding. The Onyx features a true-twin shape for switching it up on those 180s, 540s and 900s, with blunted tips and Never Summer's Press Flex core for styling it out in the rails.

Boulder-based film company Sweetgrass Productions has defined itself as the antidote to textbook ski-film fireworks over the last decade with arty, thoughtful, cinematic and even dark and meditative films like Solitaire, Signatures and Hand Cut. How to follow all that? By pointing ski tips toward British Columbia and stripping away all pretense — and, in one memorable scene, all clothes — to film Valhalla, a playful ode to "Youth. Expression. Love. Freedom." And how to celebrate, after this trippy ode won Movie of the Year at the 2014 Powder Awards? Let's just say director Nick Waggoner and his Sweetgrass crew had to strategically place their trophies for the photo op.

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