Shannon Long's path to the American dream went in the opposite direction than that of most people. While many work in retail to support their dreams of becoming artists, Shannon molded clay over steel substructures, sculpting half-scale abstract figurative art while dreaming about starting a fly-fishing business. As a boy growing up in popular Lake Havasu, he frequented a small Western-themed shop where the owner was always chatting with customers who shared his fascination with the independent spirit of the American West. In a turn of serendipity, Shannon got married and happily followed his wife to her native Colorado. Sometime after, he opened the fly-fishing shop he had always dreamed of, and found himself becoming the shopkeeper chatting with and educating customers in their shared interests.
Today, Shannon oversees a guide service manned by a staff of veteran fly-fishing experts. On full-day and half-day fly-fishing trips, guides lead anglers for the grand slam: rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brown trout, and brook trout all caught in a single trip. The Rocky Mountain landscapes surround fishermen in dramatic scenery, including towering pine trees, giant red rocks, and bright-blue skies as the sounds of colliding bighorn sheep occasionally ring out over the water. In addition to guided trips, the staff also leads classes, including courses designed for women and families, that cater to both beginner and advanced anglers.
Desert Moon Vineyards, named after the founders watched a full moon rise over the Grand Mesa, inspires palates with wines grown in a 10-acre vineyard and nearby Colorado plots. In the arid Grand Valley countryside, the vino experts harvest cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah in small batches with sustainable farming methods, such as minimal spraying and hand picking.
Though Wheel Fun Rentals bicycle stables are scattered from sea to shining sea across the North American continent, the seeds of the enterprise were sown in Italy. On vacation in the late '80s, founder Brian McInerney discovered the four-wheeled Surrey cycle, a pedal-powered vehicle capable of carrying as many as six passengers. Before returning to the States, he made sure to pick up a full set of Surreys from the manufacturer, and a new chapter in his life began. Today, the business rents not only bikes and Surreys, but also multiple cycle-style mutants such as the three-wheeled Deuce Coupe and its cousin the Chopper. They even carry more advanced land vehicles such as electric cars and scooters. Kayaks, one-person pontoons, and stand-up paddle boards also unlock access to some of the country's wettest byways.
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.
Lala's imported-olive plate, served with roasted roma tomato and homemade crackers ($8), or the daily meat and cheese plate (3 for $14 or $6 each) are sociable starters to a wine-enhanced feast. Select from dozens of sips offered by the half glass and glass ($3.25–$20) or reserve bottle ($26+)—all organized according to types, tastes, and ability to withstand being thrown out of a fifth-floor window. Flatbread pizzas, served crispy, are Lala's standout dish. With an extra-virgin-olive-oil-and-roasted-garlic base, the Il David ($9.75) layers a blend of three cheeses, roasted garlic, oven-dried tomatoes, and Peppadew peppers with a generous smattering of herb-grilled chicken. The menu also includes salads and paninis ($7.75–$10.50). For dessert, the basil frolino ($5.50) sandwiches homemade basil gelato and fresh strawberries between lemon-hazelnut shortbread. Lala's also serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring blood orange mimosas and Bloody Marys ($6.50 each), and a variety of crespelles, frittatas, and brunchy pizzas, such as the pizza Durango with chorizo, scrambled eggs, poblanos, and fontina cheese.