Outdoors: Slackline at City Park in Fort Collins

March 26 2013, 9:22 AM

Why we love it: Like yoga, slacklining helps balance, muscle rehabilitation, spiritual recovery, stress, and posture.

When to go: Whenever you find yourself between two anchor points. 

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I was walking Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro last spring, when I saw three cariocas had strung a flat rope between two palm trees and were trying to walk on it with moderate success. Having just watched Sketchy Andy, a 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival documentary about professional slackliner Andy Lewis, I was so intrigued to try the sport that despite a full stomach, no experience, and a Portuguese vocabulary even a beginner would mock, I gave it a go.

Communicating primarily with hand gestures, the teenagers nodded at my request and did their best to instruct me on technique. I kicked off my shoes, braced myself against the first tree and gave it three attempts. Each lasted one more step than the other, for a total of four strides (if you count the brief contact on the rope just before face-planting in the sand).

As it turns out, though, I didn't have to go to Brazil to slackline: just Colorado. Late last year, one of the only instructional outfitters in the country, Fort Collins-based Rocky Mountain Slackline (RMS), opened. Brand 44 Colorado, a company specializing in backyard adventures—of which slacklining is one—is located in Denver, and Gibon Slacklines USA, the largest slacklining retailer in the U.S., is based out of Boulder. The sport’s top names will descend on Vail this June, as the Summer Mountain Games are home to the Slacklining World Championships.

RMS founder Dakota Collins, a slacklining enthusiast who is among the sport’s caretakers and promoters, says one of his favorite spots to string a rope is in Fort Collins’ City Park. “There is a wide variety of tree sizes and species all over,” he says. “You are guaranteed to run into a slackliner.” He adds that park officials are “very cool with slackliners,” and supportive of the sport so long as people keep their lines below four feet in height and properly respect the trees they use.

Those looking for a partner can check out Balance Community, another gear outfitter with an online database of slacklining junkies to help them connect with one another. There are more than a dozen registered throughout Colorado. Of course, a trip to City Park on an average weekend afternoon will introduce you to twice that many.

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Tips: For beginners, Dakota offers three simple pieces of advice: “Breathe, believe, and balance.” Keep your eyes forward and maintain a straight back for proper posture. As one would expect, it takes practice to stay upright consistently.

Getting there: Drive north on I-25 to Fort Collins. Take exit 269B to head west on Mulberry St. At 5.5 miles, the park will be on the right. 

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock