The mountain-savvy staff at Apex Ex equip people of all skill levels with the knowledge, gear, and plans necessary to explore the wilderness all year round. Seasoned guides and instructors, many of whom are trained by organizations such as the National Outdoor Leadership School and the American Mountain Guides Association, lead classes that teach students important lessons ranging from backcountry snow basics to avalanche rescue. In summer months, the experts lead guided climbing and backpacking trips and teach riders to careen down rocky paths of every sort during mountain-biking lessons.
It's an old maxim that the best way to become a good skier or snowboarder is to start early in life, and go often. Shredder Ski & Snowboard Gym takes it one step further: practice even when there isn't snow on the ground. The gym's ski instructors invite youngsters to strap on their ski or snowboard boots and plow down the carpeted indoor slope, available even when the resorts are closed or snowy roofs are still littered with Christmas decorations. As kids learn fundamentals and conquer the oft-frustrating early learning curve, the budding denizens of the black diamond build healthy traits such as endurance, balance, and strength. Kids up to 12 years old participate in a variety of programs from private lessons to summer camps, while parents can join in the action at Yeti School, structured for kids age 10 months to 3 years.
For almost 20 years, Colorado Sports Rental has helped visitors and locals alike get their adrenaline pumping in any season with gear in affordable rental packages. In the summer, they lend out recently purchased jet skis, fishing boats, and dirt bikes; the winter months bring new models of skis and snowboards from brands such as Burton, Neversummer, and Salomon, which patrons can rent for a day or all season. To accommodate resort hoppers, the staff can also supply ski racks and Thule boxes for the tops of cars.
The Colorado Cross Country Ski Association represents a network of avid cross country skiers, 17 Nordic resorts, and several guest ranches scattered throughout the state. The nonprofit's reach covers 547 kilometers of groomed cross country skiing trails, including those for skate skiing, classic skiing, and extended downhill snowshoeing. With a number of initiatives in store for the season?including lessons, races, and fun social events?the association promotes the sport to its ever-growing fan base throughout nearly six months of favorable ski conditions. Members also participate in events such as the Town Race Series, held periodically at the Vail Nordic Center, and free clinics hosted by the Pagosa Springs Nordic Ski Club, as well as trips to the serene and secluded Latigo Ranch, tucked away amid the pine and aspen forests 9,000 feet above sea level.
Halfway through a 1080, a glove slips?it's time to bail. Normally, the prospect of landing means crashing a shoulder into snow and ice, but instead a cloud seems to catch the fall. At Progresh, a giant indoor airbag absorbs the impact of falls as skiers, snow- and skateboarders, BMX bike mechanics, and gymnasts practice airborne tricks in a controlled training environment. Before designing the jumps, ramps, rails, and trampolines that fill the 11,000-square-foot suite, the gym's founders each spent more than 20 years riding slopes and working with children in gymnastics programs. Using that experience, the staff helps athletes master everything from grinding rails and jibs to dropping off 10-foot cliffs and vert walls?all with the greater safety and confidence afforded by the inflatable airbag.
The internationally acclaimed Big Air event makes its inaugural American appearance in Denver with two evenings of competition that pair a roster of global champs with a tremendous 300-foot-long jump. Tuesday, January 25 opens with the Nature Valley Big Air Challenge, pitting famed male freestyle skiers against one another to perform their best air-defying tricks while simultaneously slicing potatoes into miniature busts of Shaun White. Afterward, ski fans can cheer on the winners at the awards ceremony (8:15 p.m.), before being treated to a concert by Grammy-nominated rockers Switchfoot.