Follow these essential steps to make the most of the steamy season.

One summer my dad came home and presented my brother and me with the keys to an old, beat-up blue Ford truck. For a moment, he let us soak in all the possibilities of campfire cookouts, Red Rocks tailgating, and afternoons windsurfing the reservoirs, before he informed us of the vehicle’s true purpose: “You boys just started a lawn mowing business.”

Ever since then, summer, to me, has been all about hard work, whether it’s sweating in the sun from June to late September for a new pair of skis and a season pass, or writing like crazy just to back up Ernest Hemingway’s claim that any fool can be creative in the fall. The real pros deliver prose in the deepest heat, the long, warm days have always felt like a preparation for something else.

My friends are the same. I can’t even count how many people I know who save all their vacation days for the winter, so they can be earning turns in the backcountry, lapping chairlifts or finally making that pilgrimage to Iceland or Japan. This summer, I’m going back to the basics—like junior-high style—with the sole intention of wasting some serious time. Here, are my essential summer elements.

Eat Popsicles

Nothing says summer like sucking on some fruity, sugary, rainbow-colored frozen concoction that turns your tongue bright blue and hits you with the heat-beating numbness of a deep brain freeze. Too lazy to pedal the pavement to the store to score a box? Then fill an ice cube tray with juice or root beer, hit each cube with a toothpick, and let it chill for an hour before you savor each frozen treat.

Ride Your Cruiser

Speaking of pedaling, I’m spending the entire summer on my old Schwinn single speed. Now that our collective love for this beautiful state has officially turned it into ‘Crowd-O-Rado,’ except for a couple key road trips, I am not going anywhere this July or August that I can’t reach by bike (or foot). It’s carbon-neutral, health enhancing, and more fun than anything screaming down a well-paved hill. I love to ride my bike.

Swim in a Lake

Summer just isn’t summer without a steady supply of swim dates. And the few road trips I’ve got planned this year all involve at least one cool dip in a steady rolling river—like the Arkansas in Salida—and one crystal blue lake, such as Blue Mesa Reservoir off to the west. It never ceases to amaze me how many cold-water options we’ve got for a landlocked state.

Dance Your Ass Off

No one has ever told me I’m a good dancer. Then again, no one has told me I’m not. And this summer, there are way too many real concerns for anyone to worry about how and why anyone else moves their body to a particular beat. Which is why I am going to absolutely get my hot weather groove on to some live bands at Red Rocks, to some melting club vinyl and bopping around my office to any tunes my friends send on the laptop. (And dear friends, thanks for that!)

Take Seriously Long Lunches

Even in Colorado, the workaholic mindset can ruin some of those lifelong pleasures we’re supposed to enjoy the most. Take lunch, for instance. Instead of enjoying the company of our friends and soaking up a good sandwich at a patio table, we all tend to gobble and get right back to work. I plan to throw a couple craft beers into that cycle, and maybe a book, and afterwards, a long walk around the park.

Munch Fruit

Yes, Colorado has every right to consider itself among America’s top barbecue states. Especially with the proximity of all that delicious grass-fed beef. But, when I think about really biting into summer, it typically involves sinking my teeth into a succulent nectarine, plum or peach. Somewhat miraculously, the backyard peach tree is fruiting this year—big time!—and my lovely wife’s tomato plants are already over two feet tall. I consider eating something I grew myself a summer bonus.

Enjoy Every Second

Not to go all Ferris Bueller (I know, too late), but life does move fast. You really do sometimes have to re-commit to enjoying yourself. And planning to catch a couple baseball games, go to the zoo, play guitar with a friend, go on a jogging date with your lover, watch a couple dozen sunsets, take a nap under a tree, drink cold lemonade and throw some horseshoes will give you the kind of sweet, long standing memories that last longer than anything you ever did at work.

—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? You can buy it here: