The Mile High City is crazy for sports — and it's not all about the Broncos or the Rockies. Check out an amazing collection of Denver skateparks and extreme sports parks where visitors can pedal, paddle, skate or even ski within the city. So, pack your gear and dive in headfirst. You can be more than a spectator and get active at these sports parks throughout the Denver metro area.
Location: 20th St. & Little Raven St., Denver
Denver Skatepark is one of the largest free skateboarding parks in the country. About 60 percent of the 2.5-acre park is skateable, says Mark Bernstein, a planner with Denver Parks and Recreation. The park is equally split between the bowls and pipes popular with vertical skateboarders as well as features for those who favor "street skating," he says.
The push for the park was to provide a safe and convenient outlet for Denver's skateboarders, and a task force of 80 local students helped shape the plan. "It turned out to be a cool civics lesson for them," Bernstein says.
The end result is like any other Denver park — open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with a "use at your own risk policy" — only with a laser focus on skateboarding.
It's not just kids making good use of the Downtown Denver Skatepark, Bernstein adds. "It's multigenerational — it always was. Go out there any night, especially in the summer, and the park is packed."
Activities: BMX, mountain biking, skateboarding
Location: 730 S. Jason St., Denver
Opened in 2014, Evolve's plan was to create "more than just a drop-off park," says Chris Olivier, the facility's general manager. The goal is to foster "a positive environment for people to ride in and a good environment for learning."
To this end, the 13,500-square-foot Evolve offers classes and open riding hours for BMX and mountain bikes, roller-blades, skateboards and scooters. It has about 20 features in all, including numerous ramps and a foam pit. Rentals and helmets (required) are available on-site.
While the average rider here might be around 12 years old, you'll see people of all ages having fun.
There's also a good diversity among the riders' wheels of choice (although scooters are increasingly popular) and open riding is inclusive to all. "We think part of creating a positive environment is letting all groups ride together," says Olivier.
Location: 14100 W 7th Ave., Golden
The only dedicated curling facility between Williston, N.D., and Seattle, the Denver Curling Club's ice center opened on the west side of metro Denver in 2014 and was an instant hit.
It's slick in more ways than one, says Pam Finch, the club's president. Because the ice's 70-by-165-foot surface is hand-scraped — no Zambonis allowed — it's a much smoother and faster surface for the 44-pound stones that curlers slide and sweep towards circular targets on the other end of the ice.
"Arena ice is much slower," says Finch. "Here it just keeps going and going and going." The scraping is a painstaking process, she adds. "It's like grooming a putting green."
The Denver Curling Club's home ice had been at various partner arenas and warehouses over the organization's half-century of existence before they came up with a plan to fundraise and finance the $3.4 million facility.
The ice is in high demand, with a packed calendar of league nights, private events and even national tournaments, but there are still plenty of opportunities for newbies. "Throughout the season, we offer an introductory 'Learn to Curl' class," says Finch. "It's exciting for us to teach people." The classes are two hours and typically offered early in the season (September to November). There's also a five-week program that's typically the gateway to joining a league.
Activities: skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, BMX, tubmling, parkour
Location: 9499 Washington St., Thornton
You'd be hard pressed to name an extreme sport that isn't on the schedule at Progresh.
Skateboarding classes? Check. Freeride skiing? Check. BMX, snowboarding, tumbling, parkour? Check, check, check.
"It's a little bit of everything," says Dystini Herrera, general manager of the facility. "The best thing about the facility is it brings a lot of different sports together."
Located 10 miles north of downtown Denver, the facility has synthetic slopes for skiers and snowboarders, trampolines, and "a giant mega-ramp into an airbag," says Herrera. Instructors are well-versed in their sports, and there are also drop-in sessions.
A common thread that runs through all extreme sports: tumbling. "We teach you how to fall correctly," says Herrera, likening Progresh's tumbling classes to stunt training for Hollywood.
Progresh offers extreme experiences for all ages. "We cater to a lot of school-age kids, but we get adults as well," Herrera says. Formerly a snowboarding instructor at Arapahoe Basin, she adds, "I wish they had one of these when I was a kid."
The owners were inspired by the extreme sports school Woodward at Copper Mountain, but it's 80 miles west of Denver. "We wanted to bring that down to the city," says Herrera. "Not everybody can go up to the mountain."
Activities: kayaking, canoeing, tubing, paddleboarding
Location: Eben G. Fine Park, Boulder
Dating back to the early 1980s, this whitewater park was one of the first of its kind in the United States and served as a prototype for other Denver-area facilities that followed in its wake.
"It's one of the earliest ones in the country," says Eric Bader, president of the Boulder Outdoor Center, the outdoor guiding company that spearheaded its creation in Eben G. Fine Park in scenic Boulder Canyon. "It's great for local boaters to get out and splash around."
All kinds of paddlers are welcome, he adds. "It's been used for everything from tubing to kayaking to canoe racing. More recently, there have been a lot of stand-up paddleboards." But watercraft is not always required: In fall and winter, it's a popular fishing hole.
Today there are also popular whitewater parks in Denver and Golden, says Bader, but the Boulder Playpark has bragging rights as the trendsetter.
Activities: mountain biking, cyclocross
Location: 3160 Airport Rd., Boulder
After opening in 2011, Valmont Bike Park quickly earned a reputation as one of the top municipal bicycling facilities in the country. The 42-acre park includes four miles of trails and more than 30 jumps and other features that attract a wide range of cyclists.
"The park was designed to accommodate bikers of all abilities and ages," Skyler Beck, facility manager. "It's very family friendly."
But it also attracts cyclists at the pinnacle of their sport. "We have cyclocross athletes who compete all over the world training at Valmont," says Beck.
Many of the features were designed specifically for cyclocross racing. Unlike road racing, cyclocross athletes have to navigate a varied course that includes obstacles and a variety of surfaces. At Valmont, that means two bikeable staircases, a sand pit and other challenging features.
The facility is free to use and open year-round, but heavy snow and rain can force it to close until it dries out. Rentals are not available at the park, but several businesses in Boulder rent bikes and helmets.
Activities: skiing, snowboarding
Location: Philip S. Miller Park, Castle Rock
Coming in 2019 to Castle Rock: one of the country's biggest and best year-round outdoor snowsports parks.
"There are about 200 of these facilities that have this Snowflex system developed by Briton Engineering," says Scott Springer of P3 Advisors, the park's developer.
The $25 million Castle Rock Year-Round Snow Sports Center will be more than two acres in all, with a sizable base lodge with food and beverage and space for outdoor concerts and events. The 107,000-square-foot Snowflex surface will feature several different runs along with jumps, moguls and halfpipe, all made of a polymer that, coupled with a mist production system, simulates the slickness of snow. Passes will be available by the day or hour, and rentals will be available onsite.
The only year-round snowsports park of a comparable size to the Castle Rock plan is at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Springer says.
"The convenience factor and the price point we're at, plus that it's a year-round facility, we're anticipating this is going to be a huge hit," says Springer.
P3 is working with the town of Castle Rock on a public-private partnership to build the facility in Philip S. Miller Park. Springer says the plan isn't to compete with the ski resorts to the west, but to complement them, noting, "This is not going to replace the alpine experience — it's a totally different experience." The park will offer visitors a place for "intensive, repetitive practice" in between mountain trips, he adds. "The convenience factor is going to be off the charts."