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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: mountain biking
Location: Ruby Hill Park, Denver
Opened in 2016, this impressive new bike park is located in Ruby Hill Park, about five miles southwest of downtown Denver.
Jason Himick, project manager with Denver Parks and Recreation, details the park's five primary features: a slopestyle course with downhill trails rated from novice to expert, another course with a series of dirt jumps for varying skill levels, two looping pump tracks that riders tackle using their momentum instead of their pedals, a skills course with a variety of features and a trail circumnavigating the entire park.
The $1.5 million Ruby Hill Mountain Bike Park is the latest in a series of projects seeking to energize Ruby Hill and the surrounding area. "That's the goal: to really activate that space and make it even more of an asset to the neighborhood," says Himick.
Want to unwind after a day of riding? Head to Levitt Pavilion Denver, a new $4 million amphitheater that hosts concerts all summer.
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: 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 sandpit 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.