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.
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.
At age 19, Kendra Rostvedt set out to sell snowboard gear out of a storage closet. She opened her first bona fide retail shop in 1998, operating under the ethos that boardsports should remain accessible to anybody who wants to try them. Today, the walls of Thrifty Stick Boardshop are lined with longboards, snowboards, and skateboard decks. Skaters can peruse seasonal apparel from more than 50 brands—including Gnu, Volcom, and DC—or bring in equipment to the repair shop, where technicians tune up skis with hot wax and fasten wheels to busted hoverboards so they won't be completely useless.