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17 Rites of Passage for Coloradans

by Rory Moulton Oct 20, 2014
1. Ski the Minturn Mile

It’s neither an epic line nor even a particularly challenging route — just a cruisy backcountry run that ends near a saloon in the creekside village of Minturn. Every Coloradan should ski it with their buddies at least once.

2. Hike the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak

Hiking 14ers is a given for most Coloradans, but this classic route helped kick off the 14er craze back in the day and remains a thrilling scramble today.

3. Watch the sandhill crane migration in Monte Vista

Catch 20,000 cranes as they spring break in Colorado en route to their northern summer destinations. Nearby petroglyphs suggest humans have been watching this spectacle for at least 2,000 years.

4. Dig your car out of a snowbank

Man, that curve came out of nowhere. No amount of four-wheel drive could have prevented it. Time to bust out the salt and shovel you wisely keep in the trunk. You did pack the shovel, right?

5. Pay too much for a ski resort hamburger

Factor in the million-dollar slope-side space you’re “renting” and you come out ahead!

6. Get stuck in massive traffic on I-70

Floyd Hill. At the tunnel. Ski season or road-repair season, you’re bound to get stuck in what could be the most scenic traffic jam of your life.

7. Attempt telemark skiing

You borrowed gear from a friend or signed up for a class at A-Basin; maybe you caught the loose-heel bug or were just happy to get it out of your system; but you’ve been on teles at least once.

8. Catch a Red Rocks show

Whether it’s Phish, STS9, or Snoop Dogg (er, Snoop Lion?), you’re not a Coloradan until you’ve experienced live music at the greatest outdoor venue on Earth.

9. Complete your EMT, yoga instructor, or massage therapist certification

Or even two out of three. It’s all about the work-life balance: maximizing income while minimizing actual work.

10. Pick peaches in Palisade

Georgia ain’t got nothing on our peaches! It’s the elevation — we’re so much closer to the sun that it, um, makes stuff grow yummier. That’s science. And while we’re on the subject of Colorado produce, I’ll put our Olathe sweet corn up against any other corn in the country. There, I said it: Our sweet corn is better than your sweet corn.

11. Jump in a hot spring nekkid

It could happen after dark at Steamboat’s Strawberry Park or among the backcountry peaks at Conundrum hot springs outside Aspen, but eventually you’re just going to have to suck it up and drop your drawers.

12. Paddle a “watercraft” in the Hooligan Race at the Fibark Festival in Salida

And we do use the term “watercraft” loosely.

13. Drive Independence Pass during peak fall colors

The window for peak fall colors can be incredibly narrow — a week or two — but those who hit it just right are rewarded with an explosion of gold, red, green, yellow, and orange all the way from Twin Lakes to Snowmass. At the summit, don’t follow the herd of tourists to the designated lookout. Instead, strike out along the ridge path that splits from the paved walkway and find your own slice of Independence Pass.

14. Ski bum a season…or thirty

We’ve all taken that crappy job for a season in a remote mountain town so we could ski our brains out. We loved it. Some of us are still doing it.

15. Watch spring wildflowers bloom at Great Sand Dunes NP

An often overlooked natural area, the dunes come alive with Colorado’s most diverse collection of spring wildflowers. Indian paintbrush, white lousewort, aspen daisies, and brilliant examples of elephantella are found throughout the alpine meadows. But the real treat is stumbling upon a solitary prairie sunflower seemingly doing the impossible — growing tall in a dune, an island of life amidst a sea of barren sand.

16. Hike or ski into a backcountry hut

Colorado’s backcountry huts rival the best of Europe — but with far fewer visitors than their Continental counterparts. So whether you’re looking for a family friendly hut like Francie’s near Breckenridge, a “party” hut like Janet’s between Vail and Copper, or the deep backcountry experience of Fawn Lakes Yurt, you’ll find all that and then some at one Colorado’s many backcountry huts.

17. Find a favorite spot

We all have one — maybe it’s an alpine meadow tucked deep in the Never Summers, a trout hole along the Platte, or a long stretch of open highway outside Monument, all Coloradans have a favorite place they can escape to whenever they want, if only in a daydream.

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