Sugar Magnolias

Illustration: Kevin Howdeshell/

It seems like an annual rite of spring for me to get all in bloom about how much I love Rocky Mountain Women. It must have something to do with the massive influx of Vitamin D we’re all getting, or all of those skiers suddenly riding around in bike shorts, or the thought of suntanned smiles in sun dresses swaying to mountain music beneath the stars. Maybe it’s just that the temperature’s rising, but to steal a little Beach Boys mojo, I really do wish they all could be Colorado girls.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly attracted to city girls in suits, country girls in jeans and poetry reading prairie girls with notebooks full of pressed wildflowers. I’m a sucker for a Southern twang, as well as for the big Boston collegiate basketball player I used to date who played smothering “defense” and liked to say how she thought that the mountains were “wicked cool.” And every time I see some healthy, happy female face from Minneapolis, Munich or Madagascar, my mind can invent a million different life scenarios of me selling life insurance, making Bratwurst, or fishing with a handheld net, drinking beer with my buddies in any bar on the planet, then rushing home to see my own special wherever girl.

But there’s always been something that much special-er about the women here in Colorado. And I think it has to do with how unencumbered and clear-headed life can be here in the mountain air. Something about the natural self-confidence of a woman who before lunch can and will hike a 14’er, change a flat and drink a pitcher of Fat Tire beer moves me in a way that no beachside bikini or perfumed penthouse ever will. And “natural” is the key word here, because I think what I love most about Rocky Mountain women is that they seem so happy being exactly who they are.

Here’s the beginning of my list of other things that I think the women of Colorado know how to do better than just about anybody else in the world. Please do visit the Elevation Outdoors website and add your own as well:

Drive a Stick Shift

I like to think the Grateful Dead’s Sugar Magnolia was written about a Colorado Girl. Especially the line, “Jump like a Willys in four wheel drive.” It always makes me think of some capable lady in braids and Carhartts stepping on the clutch and the gas at the same time as she goes shifting into a higher gear up and over some muddy, bumpy hill. It’s been my personal experience that women who like to drive stick are quite adept at building roaring campfires, carrying their own skis, initiating the first kiss and when occasion demands, rolling their own smokes, too.


And speaking of skis, nothing enhances a lady’s sex appeal like her ski-a-bility, or more appropriately, her enthusiasm for the sport. There’s something so attractively alive about waking up beside a woman who can’t wait to get out on the coldest days of the year, go fast and hunt out powder bell-to-bell from first to last chair. Not to mention how beautiful raccoon tans are, or the fact that no one on this planet ever seems more physically, mentally and emotionally content than someone who just spent a day tracking fresh snow.

Eat Meat

In the interest of courting a little comidas controversy, coming to the West and proclaiming yourself a vegetarian has always seemed just a little precious. That’s because “dead,” was the term Coloradoans used to describe vegetarians 100 years ago. Unless you were sitting on the Rockies’ largest collection of Anasazi Beans each winter around the turn of the last century, then you were living on the meat of elk, deer, buffalo and horse. And for that reason alone, I believe it is awesomely indigenous for a woman to have her own private travel map of great steak and incredible green chile burger joints from here to Canada.

Drink a Tequila Shot

Whiskey is fine. But tequila is the true spirit of the West. Only wine features more varietals, and here in the age of the agave renaissance, any self-respecting tavern in LoDo, BolDo, or Breck features enough fine reposados and anejos that most bartenders are really asking if you wouldn’t rather have an apple martini or strawberry daiquiri—or are really a tourist—when they say, “Would you like it dressed?” (i.e., with lime and salt). Of course, I’m also really just proud of how my own green-eyed, Colorado sunset in cowgirl boots orders it, “Neat,” and how then all the kitchen boys come out to sneak a look.

Have Dogs

The saying that “men are dogs,” might be giving men too much credit. That’s because I think dogs are about the best thing that ever happened. As for us guys? Maybe not so much. And any woman who has dogs—especially male dogs—has at least some experience with the occasional self-licking, leg humping and trash digging events. With all of the rivers and trails and mountains here, though, Colorado women seem to have a better sense of when to let a mutt run, and when to break out the leash. In short, they’re well prepared to deal with us.

Talk Broncos

My favorite thing about female sports fans is that they don’t bandwagon. If they back a team it’s because they went to school there, or grew up there. And you’re damn right they played sports themselves. If they’re wearing the hat or the jersey it’s because it’s like family. They know these players like they know their neighborhood. This is serious stuff. And while the great Timmy Tebow may have almost singlehandedly smashed that entire assertion, charismatically converting an entire new world order of Mile High faithful, it doesn’t mean that the locals aren’t happy, too. Which is another thing about Colorado girls: they’ll give you lots of opportunities to fall in love.

Peter Kray is an East High School graduate who married a Cherry Creek sugar magnoila. He keeps a framed copy of John Elway’s Broncos rookie card next to his wedding photo. He is also co-founder of the Gear Institute (, focusing on professionalizing gear testing for gear consumers and outdoor industry professionals.

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