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Best of Rockies 2017

How is it even possible to choose the best businesses, destinations and events in the Rocky Mountain Region? 

We trust our readers. So we asked them to nominate and then vote with their hearts in categories in a region that includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Of course, there is no one single best out there, but the winners here garnered the love and admiration of the people who trust this magazine as their source to go outside and play.


Best Outdoor-based Company to Work for

American Adventure Expeditions — Buena Vista, CO

The infectious stoke level of the company’s well educated and happily employed guides, keeps them coming back to work here.
Runners Up: Verde Brand Communications, Outdoor Industry Association

Best Après Spot

The Jailhouse Craft Beer Bar — Buena Vista, CO

Craft beer and jail? It’s a match made in heaven. Plus, the combination of an exceptional beer list and history and decor put this spot over the top.
Runners Up: T-Bar Steamboat, Upslope Brewing Company

Best Bike Retail Shop

Orange Peel Bicycle — Steamboat Spring, CO

It’s no surprise this local’s favorite in Bike Town USA won.
Runners Up: Absolute Bikes, Cycles of Life Leadville

Best Bike Guide Service

Beer and Bike Tours — Fort Collins, CO

What better way to explore a town than hopping on a bike? Throw in stops at breweries along the way, and you have a winner.
Runners Up: At Your Pace, Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides

Best Brewery

Ska Brewing Company — Durango, CO

When you make some of the best beer in the region and call Durango home, you’re practically a shoo-in for best brewery.
Runners Up: Elevation, Upslope

Best Cidery

Colorado Cider Company — Denver, CO

Ciders aren’t just a passing fad or craft beer’s weird younger sibling anymore. This Denver producer topped our list.
Runners Up: Big B’s, C Squared

Best Climbing Guide Service

Pikes Peak Alpine School — Colorado Springs, CO

Pikes Peak Alpine School gets newbies and vets out on snow, rock and ice. Plus, they offer avalanche safety classes.
Runners Up: San Juan Mountain Guides, Vetta Mountain Guide

Best Climbing Gym

CityROCK — Colorado Springs, CO

Forty-three-foot walls, 3,500 square feet of bouldering surface area, 15,000 square feet of roped climbing and a specially designed area for kids put CityROCK over the top.
Runners Up: EarthTreks, Movement

Best Coffee Shop

The Buena Vista Roastery and Café — Buena Vista, CO

Sustainably-minded coffee in one of Colorado’s best towns is a winner. Be sure to sign up for the shop’s awesome coffee-of-the-month membership.
Runners Up: Camp 4 Coffee, City on a Hill Coffee

Best Dispensary

Terrapin Care Station — CO

Terrapin offers a variety of homegrown strains, and serves communities throughout Colorado.
Runners Up: Nature’s Medicine, LivWell

Best Distillery

Wyoming Whiskey — Kirby, WY

This independent, family-owned distillery makes damn good whiskey.
Runners Up: Deerhammer, Woods

Best Hiking Guide
Aspen Alpine Guides — Aspen, CO

Hut trips, avy courses, winter programs, summer programs—Aspen Alpine Guides offers it all.
Runners Up: Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides, Glacier Guides

Best Outdoor Gear Brand

Voormi — Pagosa Springs, CO

If you’ve ever donned one of Voormi’s thoughtfully-crafted and comfortable pieces of apparel, you’ll understand why.
Runners Up: Melanzana, Big Agnes

Best Outdoor App


ViewRanger wowed readers by continuing to be the most innovative GPS app out there.
Runners Up: Mountain Project, Open Snow

Best Outdoor Job Title

Gear Tester

Why, we happen to be quite familiar with that term.
Runners Up: raft guide, avalanche forecaster

Best Outdoor Retail Shop

Mountain Chalet — Colorado Springs, CO

New owners have breathed new vitality into this icon in the Springs.
Runners Up: CKS Main, Bentgate Mountaineering

Best Outdoor Start-Up

Mountain Standard — Boulder, CO

This Boulder-based brand is selling directly to the consumer, keeping the cost for their high-quality goods awesomely low.
Runners Up: Grass Sticks, Gociety

Best Restaurant

Hell’s Backbone Grill — Boulder, UT

It’s in one of the most remote towns in the country, but it’s home to one of the most celebrated restaurants in the West.
Runners Up: House Rock Kitchen, Bin 707 Grand Junction

Best Running Retail Shop

Twisted Trails — Steamboat, CO

Weekly “beer runs” and top-of-the-line gear and helpful staff earned this small town shop the nod.
Runners Up: Oxygen Hog, Boulder Running Company

Best Whitewater Guide Service

AVA Colorado Rafting

From whitewater rafting trips for beginners, to advanced epic expeditions, AVA has an excellent reputation in the adventure community.
Runners Up: American Adventure Expeditions, RMOC

Best Winery

Vino Salida — Salida, CO

Vino Salida serves up house-made wines and wine cocktails seven days a week.
Runners Up: Two Rivers Winery, Infinite Monkey Theorem

Best Yoga Studio

Colorado School of Yoga  — Boulder, CO
This studio puts the focus on training teachers to better help us walk in the world.
Runners Up: Jala Blue, Freeman Yoga

Best Non-Profit 

UpaDowna — Colorado Springs, CO
This inclusive non-profit’s mission is to provide access to outdoor adventures for all through events and programs that empower individuals, create healthier communities, and foster a respect for the environment.
Runners Up: Southwest Utah Wilderness Alliance, First Descents

Photo Credit: Trent Bona/CBMR


Best Adventure Park

Browns Canyon Adventure Park — Buena Vista, CO

You have to love 66 unique obstacles and seven different zip lines.
Runners Up: Glenwood Springs Adventure Park, CO; Royal Gorge Adventure Park, CO

Best Climbing Crag

Shelf Road — CO

Climbers of all levels can hone their skills on 800+ routes at one of the most well maintained rock climbing areas in the country.
Runners Up: Indian Creek, UT; Eldorado Canyon, CO

Best Bouldering Area

Vedauwoo — Wyoming

Know best for its off-widths, Vedauwoo has a huge variety of bouldering problems and few crowds.
Runners Up: Joe’s Valley, UT, Clear Creek Canyon, CO

Best Hiking Trail

Mill Castle Trail — Gunnison, CO

This epic trail takes you through the West Elk Wilderness with a steep ascent over Storm Pass at 12,440 feet.
Runners Up: Copper Lake/East Maroon Pass, Aspen, CO; Emerald Lake, MT

Best Running Trail

Snodgrass — Crested Butte, CO

With an elevation gain of 1,421 feet, this six-mile out-and-back is a perfect, moderate-level trail run.
Runners Up: Soldier Ridge Trail, Sheridan, WY, Bridger Ridge, MT

Best Whitewater Run

The Numbers — Arkansas River, CO

One of the best Class IV+ rapids along the Arkansas River, the Numbers is made up of seven major rapids in just under six miles.
Runners Up: Oh Be Joyful, Crested Butte, CO, Snake River, WY

Best SUP Spot

Buena Vista Whitewater Park — Buena Vista, CO

With five main whitewater structures catering to all ability levels, the whitewater park runs through downtown Buena Vista.
Runners Up: Lower Gunnison from Pleasure Park Down, CO; Ruby Horsethief, CO/UT

Best Campground

Hopi Campground — Snow Mountain Ranch, CO

Open to tents or van lifers this camp takes full advantage of Snow Mountain Ranch’s facilities.
Runners Up: Fruita, Capitol Reef, UT; Goblin Valley, UT

Best Dog Friendly Outdoor Destination

Gunnison, CO

Many of Gunnison’s hotels are happy to welcome your furry friends—then get out and play together.
Runners Up: Pagosa Springs, CO, and Boulder, CO (TIE)

Best Fly Fishing River

Arkansas, CO

With 102 river miles, the Arkansas River claims one of the longest stretches of Gold Medal water in North America.
Runners Up: Madison, MT; Rio Grande, NM

Best Kid Friendly Outdoor Destination

Snow Mountain Ranch, CO

This YMCA facility near Winter Park has a plethora of activities for all ages, all year round. Activities include whitewater rafting, ziplining, horseback riding, winter dog sledding, fat bike rentals, you name it.
Runners Up: Buena Vista, CO; Vail Adventure Ridge, CO

Best Mountain Biking Trail

Doctor Park — Crested Butte, CO

This 19.3 mile fun ride gives intermediate to downhill riders the thrills they seek.
Runners Up: Lunch Loops, Grand Junction, CO; RAT Trails, Ridgway, CO

Best Mountain Summit

Mt. Princeton, CO

Towering over the Arkansas River Valley at 14, 197 feet, Mt. Princeton is a burly but rewarding hike. From the main trailhead outside of Buena Vista, climb 5,400 feet in just under 7 miles.
Runners Up: Mt. Sneffels, CO; Longs Peak, CO

Best Place for Outdoor Singles to Live

Fort Collins, CO

With a vibrant nightlife and a flourishing craft brew scene, it’s the perfect place to expand your social circle and maybe you will meet that special someone.
Runners Up: Golden, CO; Bozeman, MT

Best Road Bike Ride

Cottonwood Pass, CO

At 12,126 feet, Cottonwood Pass is the third highest paved road in Colorado. Steep switchbacks and breathtaking scenery make it an iconic and challenging ride.
Runners Up: Colorado National Monument CO; Independence Pass, CO

Best Ski/Snowboard Resort

Crested Butte Mountain Resort — Crested Butte, CO

With 15 lifts and 121 trails, Crested Butte has no shortage of fun terrain for all ability levels. Skiing not your thing? Take a snowshoe tour, rent a fat bike, or enjoy CBMR’s adventure park.
Runners Up: Copper Mountain, CO; Big Sky, MT

Best Inbounds Ski/Snowboard Terrain

Crested Butte Mountain Resort — Crested Butte, CO

Not only did CB win all-around best resort, it also took home the honors when it comes to the best terrain in area, thanks, no doubt, to classic gnarly stuff like the Headwall and Teocalli Bowl.
Runners Up: Palmyra Peak, Telluride, CO; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY (TIE)

Best Terrain Park

Breckenridge Ski Resort — Breckenridge, CO

With 14 jumps, 75 rails, boxes, wallrides, jibs and bonks along with a 22-foot superpipe, Breck’s terrain parks aren’t messing around.
Runners Up: Woodward at Copper Mountain, CO; Area 51 Keystone, CO

Best Urban Park

Palmer Park — Colorado Springs, CO

Sitting on 740 acres, smack dab in the middle of Colorado Springs, Palmer Park has 25 miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and an off-leash dog park.
Runners Up: Kendrick Park, Sheridan, WY; Fairmont Park, Salt Lake City, UT

Best Water Park

Buena Vista Whitewater Park — Buena Vista, CO

Kayakers, stand up paddlers and picnickers alike will tell you that the Buena Vista Whitewater Park is one of the best spots in the state. Hit the shops and eats on South Main when you are done playing.
Runners Up: Green River Whitewater Park, WY; Montrose Water Park, CO

Best Wilderness Area

Indian Peaks Wilderness, CO

Here you get 76,711 acres of lakes, waterfalls, and jagged peaks claiming elevations ranging from 8,300 to 13,500 feet, all within a short drive from Denver.
Runners Up: Frank Church-River of No Return, ID; Bridger, WY

Paddle the best whitewater of Browns Canyon on the Arkansas. Photo Credit: Scott Peterson


Best Beer Festival

Chili and Beer — Crested Butte, CO

The only thing that can beat beer: chili! Saturday, Sept 9, 2017.
Runners Up: Colorado Cider and Beer Circus, Copper Mountain, CO; Breckenridge Beer Fest, Breckenridge, CO (TIE)

Best Climbing Event

Ouray Ice Festival — Ouray, CO

There is no bigger celebration of the sport of ice climbing on the planet and no better place to enjoy it than at this ice park made for and by climbers. January 2018.
Runners Up: WSCU Climbing Comps, Gunnison, CO; International Climbers Festival, Lander, WY

Best Costumed Event

Steamboat Springs Mustache Ride — Steamboat, Colorado

Yes, it’s a pub crawl in costume, but it’s also a fundraiser for the Routt County Humane Society. Oct. 7, 2017.
Runners Up: Al Johnson Telemark Race, Crested Butte, CO; Tour de Fat, Fort Collins, CO

Best Cyclocross Race

New Mexico Cyclocross Series

With races across the state, this comprehensive series has something for every level of rider.
Runners Up: Ogden Cyclocross, UT; Waffle Cross, Boise, ID (TIE)

Best Mountain Bike Race

Beti Bike Bash — Castle Rock, CO

This week of celebration culminates in a rollicking women’s mountain bike race for all levels. June 4, 2017.
Runners Up: Growler, Gunnison, CO; Fat Bike World Championship, Crested Butte, CO

Best Multisport Festival

CKS Paddlefest — Buena Vista, CO

It may have began as a paddling event, but it has evolved into so much more with everything from music to bouldering to running races and more. May 26-29, 2017.
Runners Up: GoPro Mountain Games, Vail, CO; Rocky Mountain State Games, Colorado Springs, CO

Best Music Festival

Targhee Fest — Wyoming

You want a real music festival in the mountains? Get to Wyoming. July 14-16, 2017.
Runners Up: Upslope Get Down, Boulder, CO; WinterWonderGrass, Steamboat, CO

Best Paddling Event

Golden Games — Golden, CO

Backed by the local community, this event just keeps growing. May 19-21, 2017.
Runners Up: CKS Paddlefest, Buena Vista, CO; FibArk, Salida, CO

Best Road Bike Race

West Elk Bicycle Classic — CO

Sadly, our readers choice for best road bike race is cancelled this year. But it hopes to return—maybe this award will help.
Runners Up: Copper Triangle, CO; Silver City Tour of the Gila, NM

Rowdiest Outdoor Event

Boom Days — Leadville, CO

Yes, Leadville is still the type of place you could get yourself beat up—or just have a real mountain-town blast at this festival. August 4-6, 2017.
Runners Up: Late Night Fibark, Salida, CO; Wind River Mountain Festival, Pinedale, WY

Best Running Race

Ned Ned — Nederland, CO

With none of the pretense of other running races, this family friendly costumed event combines a 5K, 10K and dirt/road half marathon—and it reeks of Ned.
Runners Up: Leadville Trail 100 Run, Leadville, CO; Bolder Boulder, Boulder, CO

Toughest Race or Event

Gore-tex Grand Traverse — Crested Butte, CO

Competitiors race the clock and brave storms in the middle of the night to gut it through the 40-mile ski from Crested Butte to Aspen.
Runners Up: Hardrock 100, Silverton, CO; West Elk Classic, Gunnison, CO

Best Triathlon

CB3P — Crested Butte, CO

Starting in Mt. Crested Butte and finishing in Gunnison, this multi-sport triathlon combines uphill/downhill skiing, road biking and kayaking.
Runners Up: Ironman Boulder 70.3, Boulder, CO; Toughman Utah, Provo, UT

Best Warrior/Mud Run Race

AXS Moab Adventure Race — Moab, Utah

Tough it out mountain biking, kayaking the Colorado River and rappeling down a 300-foot cliff in this blast of an adventure. April 22, 2017.
Runners Up: Montana Warrior Run, Billings, MT; Dirty Girl Mud Run, Copper, CO

by Lily Krass and Tyra Sutak

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