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.
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.
As the sun starts to melt last night's snowfall, cross-country skis gently glide over the freshly groomed trails of Grand Lake Nordic Center. The peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and Arapahoe National Forest rise in the distance, with shifting views and perspectives as guests make their way through different trails. Newcomers can take a lesson in cross country skiing or snowshoeing while more advanced outdoorsmen tackle the snow enclaves of Randall's Romp or Spirits Haunt. The nearby lodge offers steaming bowls of soup, while children can take a tumble down the tubing hill or play rock-paper-scissors with a Yeti.
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.
Amid the crisp, thinning mountain air steeped in the aroma of pine trees, a single-track trail winds through a dense evergreen forest past sweeping views of the valley below. In 2005, wilderness enthusiast Stefan Van der Steen founded Denver Adventures as a means of introducing others to scenes such as this by immersing them in the great outdoors through adventures such as ziplines, hiking treks, and rafting excursions. Stefan and his team of knowledgeable guides lead groups to an elevation of 8,000 feet for zipline tours on an Association for Challenge Course Technology–certified course, where riders reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour past Colorado’s naturally blurry trees. Denver Adventures also leads hiking, snowshoeing, and mountain-biking treks through the uneven terrain, gauging participants' skill throughout to determine whether they can traverse a steep uphill climb or do a Superman seat grab over a row of sleeping bears. Making use of all the wilderness has to offer, guides also take explorers on rafting trips through canyons and past gold mines, or train them to navigate vertical routes using top-rope techniques during five-hour rock-climbing excursions.