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 55 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.