Best Ski Deal for Kids 2016 | Vail Resorts | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

The biggest shot fired in the season-pass wars for the 2015-2016 ski and snowboard season was the news that Vail Resorts would be offering the Epic Schoolkids Colorado Pack, free passes to all elementary-school students in Colorado in grades K-5, expanding on the School of Shred hook-them-while-they're-young program previously offered to fifth- and sixth-graders. The Epic Schoolkids pass is good for four days each at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone, with restrictions around the holidays, and includes a free rental and first-timer lesson package for one-time use. Registration for the 2016-2017 Epic Schoolkids passes began on March 28; be sure to sign up before the season gets under way, because it's a limited-time offer.

Plainly put: If you're buying lift tickets at full price at the window, you're a sucker, and it's probably costing you damn near $200 a day. But if you plan ahead, skiing and snowboarding in Colorado can actually be kinda-sorta affordable, especially as multi-mountain collectives continue to band together to compete for season-pass sales. For the 2016-2017 season, our favorite is the Rocky Mountain SuperPass Plus, a $499 unlimited season pass to Copper Mountain, Winter Park and Eldora Mountain Resort that also includes six days at Steamboat, three at Crested Butte, and three at Alaska's Alyeska Resort, plus seven (restricted) days each at five international ski areas. Better yet, each adult pass comes with one Kids Ski Free pass good at all of the same destinations for kids twelve and under. Prices go up after April 5. Pro tip: Use all six of those Steamboat days (window ticket price for the 2015/2016 season was $149) to get your money's worth.

Keystone Facebook page

Keystone's Independence Bowl, Erickson Bowl and Bergman Bowl are all technically inbounds, and may all be served by chairlifts in the distant future. For now, though, you can either hike to them or splurge for a ride — and a guide — with an all-day trip from Keystone Adventure Tours. The tours run from January through April, but only when the snow is good; you'll actually get your money back if the guides don't think they can get you into the fresh tracks on expert terrain you've been dreaming of. The tours run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., cost $275, and include powder-ski demos in case you need them (you will), a gourmet lunch served in a cozy yurt on Independence Bowl, and a lift ticket in case your legs still have enough left in them for some chairlift laps after playing in all that snow (they won't). Afterward, raise a toast to your guides and your eleven new best friends. For a cheaper taste of snowcat chauffeur life, try the Outback Shuttle, a $10 ride to Keystone's Outback Bowls from the top of the Outback chairlift, which gives you a perfect view of what you're missing across the way.

Denver-based director Josh Berman teamed up with co-director Freedle Coty for the annual installment of Level 1's ongoing project to document the best skiing in the world. Small World won Film of the Year and Best Female Short (for Tatum Monod) at the 2015 iF3 International Freeski Film Festival in December, following its world premiere at City Hall nightclub in September. Other iF3 nominations included Best Female Freeride Performance (also for Tatum Monod), Best Crash, Best Shot and Best Editing. Sami Ortleib and Mitchell Brower were each nominated for Rookie of the Year honors at the iF3 for their roles in the film, and Brower took the nod for Best Jib at the annual Powder Video Awards, also in December. If the iTunes version won't cut it for your permanent collection, stop by the storefront at the Level 1 Productions headquarters in RiNo to pick up a copy on DVD or Blu-ray.

Denver-based Icelantic Skis celebrated its tenth anniversary during the 2015-2016 season and added some new planks to the line to help mark the occasion. The all-mountain Pioneer is the first in Icelantic's collection to feature its new lightweight Bi-Axe construction, and it has a rocker/camber hybrid with early rise on the tip and tail to help float in the powder that Colorado got plenty of — if a bit sporadically — over the winter. Skiing magazine gave the Pioneer a "Hot Gear" nod at the SIA Snow Show, dubbing the $599 ski "a true all-mountain daily-driver ski at a price designed to make it one of Icelantic's best values ever," but Icey had us at the Travis Parr artwork. A new version of the same ski with more abstract Parr art will be a staple of the 2016-2017 line.

High Society Freeride designs and tests its snowboards in Aspen and Snowmass, then has them manufactured in Denver at the Never Summer Industries factory, making them some of the very few boards manufactured in the U.S., much less in Colorado. The keep-it-local protocol appears to be paying off: In 2016, the Temerity All-Mountain Freeride board took Outside magazine's coveted Gear of the Year award. Available in five different lengths, from 151cm to 162cm, the directional board holds up under abuse in terrain parks and is stiff enough to maintain control at high speed while remaining flexible enough to stay playful. HSF claims it's "meant for riders so bold they are almost foolish." Sounds like just about every snowboarder we know.

The stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP) craze has officially swept the state, from downtown spots along the South Platte River to raging whitewater in the mountains. When you're ready to give it a try, start slow and scenic — and at the source — by renting an inflatable board from Steamboat Springs's Hala Gear and taking it out on Steamboat Lake. The learning curve is pretty shallow when you're out there standing on the lake on flat water, and the views are so spectacular that you'll be hooked from the get-go. When you're ready for an extra shot of adrenaline — and a few servings of humble pie — try some of your favorite yoga poses or running some rapids. For a few pro tips, sign up with an outfitter like Steamboat Paddleboard Adventures for lessons on the Yampa River. Buying a board will set you back about $1,500, but they're portable enough to not require a roof rack, and some models include a StompBox retractable-fin design that you'll appreciate when the river gets shallow.

Mark Antonation

The backdrop of the sleek, U-shaped bar at WTF features four large screens that are visible from the elevated booths across the room, which makes for some serious sports watching — a focus here anytime something of athletic importance occurs. But this retro-feel bar in Prospect Park also gets points for offering more than 100 whiskeys — served with a little housemade salted caramel. And if you crave a classic while watching your team, it's hard to beat the burger, the fried chicken or the shrimp and grits here. Go, team!

Readers' choice: Highland Tap & Burger

A select few in the metro area brave the early hours of weekend mornings to watch their favorite sports team streamed live from across the world. The Three Lions pub will open as early as 5:30 a.m. for English Premier League soccer matches, and plenty of coffee and tea will be poured prior to 7 a.m., when alcohol service begins. Also available: $4.50 Bloody Marys and mimosas, and a proper English breakfast. After the morning rush of diehard fans, the pub will make way for more sports watching throughout the day, including American football games, rugby, Formula One racing and other international soccer games. The full menu includes the standard comfort food of English pubs, with shepherd's pie, fish and chips and England's favorite dish: curry. Of course, all of your favorite pints are offered, and with its many loyal supporters, the pub is always filled with the kind of good cheer, warmth and camaraderie that only a popular neighborhood spot can provide.

Readers' choice: Stoney's Bar & Grill

Let the games begin! Since 2003, Blake Street Tavern has been scoring big with sports-bar fans, and the best got better when it moved down the block to a much bigger space on 23rd Street. That space came with a huge basement that posed a quandary for the bar, but when owner Chris Fuselier finally decided to turn it into Underground Social, he came up with a winning solution. The spot has its own bar, jukebox, photo booth, games — everything from giant Jenga to shuffleboard to darts — and big-screen TVs, and it's a great place to get away from the crowds upstairs, where there are even more games, TVs and sports fans.

Readers' choice: The 1up

Best Of Denver®

Best Of