Let’s celebrate a decade of covering Denver, dogs, ghost towns and the Colorado life on this page.
Wow, 10 years of Elevation Outdoors. It’s been a privilege to contribute to this magazine, writing about the things that matter most to me, and I hope to all of you, including the Rocky Mountains, family, dogs, skiing, music, craft beer, being outdoors and of course, Broncos football.
I realize I may have lost a few (lot) of you with that last subject, since so many Coloradoans lived somewhere else before they moved. But when I was growing up here, Denver was considered a cow town, known outside the ‘303’ for little more than its beautiful mountains, mile-high elevation and Coors.
Our major league sports teams (all two of them) were also-rans for so long that the place lost its collective mind when John Elway became quarterback of the Broncos. Other than the too-short Nuggets career of basketball legend David “Skywalker” Thompson, and the Broncos’ first-ever first-round pick, Floyd “The Franchise” Little, this state had never had a big-time sports star like Elway before.
More than anything, Elway’s athletic talents helped invite Mile-Highers to the communal sports-talk table, where BS’ing about hard-fought playoffs and dramatic overtimes sets the stage for the kind of conversation that might explore more pressing issues. Like how the hell we address climate change for a starter.
Elway’s rise also coincided with a series of progressive leaps for the Queen City of the Plains, including the arrival of the Colorado Rockies and Avalanche, downtown’s transformation from a landscape of vacant warehouses and dive bars into a thriving metropolis, and a truly international airport in DIA, as the former Stapleton strip only offered border-crossing flights to Canada and Mexico.
For good and bad, the change has only accelerated since. But some things stayed the same as well. Here are 10 of the biggest changes the Centennial State has—or hasn’t—experienced since the launch of EO:
#1 Legal Weed
You thought this town was lit? One billion in state revenue and almost a dozen other states following suit later, Colorado’s legal weed legislation set the Centennial State up as the new Pied Piper of unfettered pot smoking, kick-starting a North American phenomenon that went countrywide in Canada. Weed migrants followed. So did a mountain of previously un-taxed income to benefit the state. Just don’t trip that the recent legalization of magic mushrooms will do nearly as well.
#2 Beer Still Rules
From the gold-canned shadow of Coors beer to the more recent legends of Avery, New Belgium, Upslope, The Wynkoop and The Great American Beer Festival, you can pour something local in almost every Colorado zip code. And you can now can get regular strength beer in the grocery store. Isn’t beer what groceries are?
In maybe the biggest “DOH” moment in recent Rocky Mountain history, Colorado was the second state to legislatively recognize the economic value of its iconic outdoors. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry, established in 2015 by former Governor and present presidential candidate John Hickenlooper, mandated that the state support and market the recreation industries that brought most of us here. (Thanks, Hick!)
Unfortunately, other than the creation of a pay-to-pass speed lane for highway highrollers, I-70 mountain access has changed about zero percent in the past decade. And I don’t know of any smart-guy solution for curing the granite gridlock. The Summit Daily News reported that 67 percent of the respondents to an I-70 Coalition poll said they are skiing less because of I-70 traffic. Which I still don’t think adds up to more tracks for me and you.
#5 The Ski Season
The 2018-2019 season was so deep, terrain-changing avalanches rocked the highway near Frisco as well as Aspen’s Highland Bowl. A-Basin was open through the Fourth of July for the first time in eight years. By Memorial Day 2018, high water was already gone; this year, it roared through June. In the Rockies, you just never know.
New head coach Vic Fangio is the Donkey’s sixth in the last 10 seasons. In that time, they’ve also started seven quarterbacks, including current Syracuse Met Tim Tebow and Hall of Fame first-rounder Peyton Manning, and won one Super Bowl. Which means they remain as unpredictable as the ski season. Except Broncos’ game days are still the best time to hit the hills.
The one constant through all the Broncos mayhem? John Elway, the man who made the moves. Despite the consistent rise in lacrosse, indoor climbing, or fourteener topping, he’s still the most important sports figure here in Elwayville.
#8 The Campus Lounge
It would be impossible to list all of the great restaurants and bars that dove out of Denver in the past decade, or all the new ones that moved in. And while I thought I would be toasting the second resurgence of The Campus Lounge, a 40-plus-year-old sports bar, where I had my first cold beer with my future wife, they closed again in early July. Dang.
#9 High Rises
Skyscrapers are eating up the downtown view, devouring independent coffee shops, mom-and-pop Italian restaurants and small corner stores. Which makes it more exciting than ever to support your own favorite new ventures, celebrating the independent spirit of living here.
More than anything, Colorado is the place dogs would have invented if didn’t exist, filled as it is with big mountains, cold rivers and acres of snow. I’ve lost two pups to old age since I started writing this column, my Bella and Bettie Wonder. But I gained two more, Moses and Rose. (All were/are labs born in Colorado.) When your best friends live only a little more than a decade, you realize how quickly you need to start enjoying the next 10 years!
—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? buy it here and read it now: amzn.to/2LmZPvN