Best Terrain Park 2016 | A51 | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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Keystone's A51 terrain-park system — a repeat Readers' Choice winner — is made up of six terrain parks targeted at helping skiers and snowboarders work their way up to its biggest features. Start on Easy Street, a beginner-friendly lap through smallish jumps, rails, boxes and other features, then head to the Park Lane jump line under the Peru lift, a dedicated terrain-park chairlift that means your biggest hits will get you hoots and hollers from above, while your biggest misses could land you on Jerry of the Day. There are larger rails, boxes and jumps in the "intermediate" I-70 zone, and skatepark-style jib features in the Alley, all meticulously groomed by staffers who actually ride those features and know what's good for you. By the time you're landing tricks on the enormous three-jump set on Main Street, just below the top of the chairlift, your season video edit should be in good shape.

Readers' Choice: Copper Mountain

For a just-barely inbounds experience, obsess over forecasts to get yourself to Steamboat on a powder day, then make your way ASAP to the Morningside lift from the back side of the resort. Look for the radio tower to your right as you unload. Take a deep breath — you'll be well above 10,000 feet of elevation by this point — and then point for the tower. Ride down to the gate for Christmas Tree Bowl (drop in here if it's untracked and save the walk for later), then unbuckle and start the brief hike to the summit. From there you'll have several options, all of them down steep and lightly gladed chutes punctuated by several cliff-drop line options, and all on terrain that you won't believe is an actual run. No Names, North St. Pat's and East Face are all excellent — and essentially all the same run — but No Names has the best name and is the easiest to return from once you're out of the steeps and in danger of getting bogged down in the flats. Alternately, keep hiking for a few more yards and take a selfie for your mom by the skull-and-crossbones side-country warnings.

Readers' choice: Drunken Frenchman, Winter Park

Some of the biggest airs in the history of snowboarding were launched from the 22-foot halfpipe in Vail's Golden Peak Terrain Park in March, when the Burton US Open rolled through. In the men's contest, Shaun White actually soared above the 25-foot measuring stick, executing a lofty backside air that managed to be as impressive as any of the more technical spins farther down in his winning run. In the women's contest, fifteen-year-old Chloe Kim sent her own massive backside air far down the pipe, gathering speed for back-to-back 1080s. Vail's pipe crew kept it in top form for weekend warriors all season, grooming the walls to competition specs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not quite ready to send your own tricks fifty feet above the flat bottom? Try warming up on the smaller pipe — also on Golden Peak, but featuring less-imposing thirteen-foot walls — to build up some confidence.

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.

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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.

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