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Top Local Outdoor Gear Store
Although Mountainsmith has been designing hardy backcountry gear in Golden for 43 years, general manager Jonathan McFarland still meets locals who don’t know that the brand, which sells mostly through retailers, is based in Colorado. The company’s new headquarters and showroom near Washington Avenue, the foothills town’s main drag, will likely change that when it opens this summer. Passersby can peer through the windows of the historic building and see developers working on prototypes, pop in to check out the latest releases, and drop off Mountainsmith gear in need of repair, which is free as part of the company’s Forged for Life guarantee. But Mountainsmith’s ties to the community go far beyond brick and mortar. Centennial State people and places have been influencing its products for decades. —Jessica LaRusso
Golden Garage Sale
Slingback chair, $25
After finding an ’80s-era version of the brand’s discontinued ultralight backcountry chair at a garage sale in 2015, a fan returned the item to the company’s old headquarters. Product developers were inspired to re-create the original design. Revived in 2017, the five-ounce, rollable nylon sheet of fabric only needs two trekking poles to set up.
The Colorado Haute Route
Tour lumbar pack, $80
In 1982, Mountainsmith founder Patrick Smith almost got caught in an avalanche while back-country skiing the high route from Vail to Winter Park. The experience inspired Smith (who has since left and started Kifaru, a Colorado-based hunting gear brand) to create a fanny pack of sorts that could comfortably hold a shovel. Now the brand’s top-selling item, the pack is popular with hikers and fly-fishers who appreciate the way it leaves their upper bodies unrestricted and distributes weight on the hips.
The Real Hiking Viking
Zerk 40 backpack, $220
Former Marine turned professional thru-hiker and Lakewood resident Thomas Gathman—who describes himself as “one-half Viking, one-half thrill-seeker, and two-thirds beard”—co-designed this pack to be light but tough enough for multiweek treks. The result of two years and more than 5,000 miles of testing, the Zerk 40 features a roll-top closure, straps with easy-access pouches for snacks and a cell phone, and a weight of just 29 ounces.
Local Craft Breweries
Sixer cooler, $35
Examine the merchandise racks at Golden’s Cannonball Creek Brewing Company, Odell Brewing Company’s Fort Collins and Denver locations, or Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Company, and you’ll see Mountainsmith’s soft-sided coolers emblazoned with each brewery’s logo. Per feedback from beermakers, Mountainsmith increased the size of the Sixer (which it also sells blank) to fit six bottles, 12 cans, or two growlers.
A Denver Veterinarian (Whose Name Has Been Lost to Time)
K9 dog pack, $79
In 2019, Mountainsmith enlisted a veterinarian to help update its decades-old dog pack. The doc’s knowledge of canine anatomy informed features such as an adjustable chest harness and foam padding in spots prone to rubbing. The vet also suggested storage compartments that weren’t so big that owners could easily overload their four-legged trail buddies.
Top Ski Area
With Colorado ski hills in an arms race to install lifts and open new terrain to better accommodate their ever-growing hordes, only Arapahoe Basin has instituted the nuclear option—capping the number of visitors on its mountain—to boost the skiing experience. It started in winter 2019 when, to reduce crowding, A-Basin bailed on Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, which had given customers unlimited days at the resort. Then, in March 2021, the mountain announced it would limit the number of lift tickets sold each day and reduce the amount of unrestricted season passes by 10 percent for the upcoming year. It worked. By this past February, the resort had seen 38 percent fewer skier days than it had by that point in 2019, according to a post on A-Basin’s website by chief operating officer Alan Henceroth. To put that in perspective: The resort’s parking lots reached max capacity once last season, and that lasted for about 30 minutes. In fact, the mountain is introducing wallet-friendly fall three-packs ($99) and fall passes ($279) this autumn to bring in more skiers when the mountain is too empty. Lift tickets and season passes ($599) will still be limited, but those who land the latter will receive days at Colorado’s Monarch Mountain, Silverton Mountain Ski Area, and Bluebird Backcountry, plus New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley and new addition Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Montana. That sounds pretty epic to us. —Nicholas Hunt
Top Bike Shop
When the Kiefel family announced it was selling the beloved independent shop it had operated for nearly half a century, Front Range riders braced for the worst. Would a new owner change things? Short answer: Yes, but only for the better. New bike boss David Dentry, who bought Wheat Ridge Cyclery in April 2021, immediately bolstered the store’s online presence to allow customers to shop its inventory from the couch, a helpful innovation during the pandemic. But Dentry has kept most everything else the same, including the staff, a wise decision considering its industry acumen. For example, in May 2020, longtime general manager Steve Heal foresaw that the pandemic would cause bike shortages and acted quickly to secure several large shipments of two-wheelers and parts from manufacturers such as Trek, Specialized, Yeti, and Santa Cruz. So, while supply chain delays continue to stymie offerings at other metro-area shops, Wheat Ridge Cyclery remains well-stocked—and well-run. —Fiona Murphy
1711 Sheridan Blvd., Suite A, Edgewater, 303-477-0793
2145 E. 120th Ave., Unit H, Northglenn, 720-638-8104
Winter Outdoor Gear Item
3440 Youngfield St., Suite 239, Wheat Ridge, 800-854-2072
Summer Outdoor Gear Item
3440 Youngfield St., Suite 239, Wheat Ridge, 800-854-2072
2501 Dallas St., Suite 258 (inside Stanley Marketplace), Aurora, 303-921-7017
92 Crawford Gulch Road, Golden, 800-244-5613
85 Parsenn Road, Winter Park, 970-726-5514
2714 W. 44th Ave., 303-495-6996
Hike Within 90 Minutes Of Denver
18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 720-865-2494
Local Outdoor Gear Store
3936 Tennyson St., 303-903-8584
1630 Miner St., Idaho Springs, 303-829-5681