Best Of 2014

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Best Of 2014: Daylife 

Place to Buy Skateboards
Place to Buy Skis/Snowboards

Blindside

600 S. 21st St., #150, 636-1554, blindsidecolorado.net

Passionate. Ambitious. Adventure-seeking. These words apply to Blindside's loyal customers, says manager Logan Dickerson, but they could just as easily describe the store's employees — who, Dickerson adds, aren't paid on commission. "We're in it for the people around us," he says. Blindside, which has won both of these categories for seven years in a row, offers daily and weekly rentals, as well as repair and tuning services. And when it comes to selling new products, Blindside specializes in locally made items, Dickerson says. — AP

Bike Shop

Old Town Bike Shop

426 S. Tejon St., 475-8589, oldtownbikeshop.com

Having earned this award for six years in a row, Old Town is clearly the local favorite when it comes to one-stop shops that sell, assemble and service our two-wheeled companions. Whether you're looking for a perfect mountain bike to climb Barr Trail, or a commuter bike to reduce your ecological footprint, Old Town staffers like Evan Wedsworth can help you out. "We're also known for being a very environmentally friendly shop," says the sales and service specialist, noting how the majority of the shop's utilities are solar- or wind-powered and 75 percent of waste gets recycled. And while an exodus of aging hipsters to Brooklyn, Portland and elsewhere may have reduced the market for Fixies, the shop sells plenty of walk-along bikes for toddlers and hybrid cruisers for customers who range from teenagers to octogenarians. And yes, it carries unicycles. "We actually keep a few in stock," says Wedsworth, "just in case." — BF

Writer's Pick
Easy Way to Go Extreme

Challenge Unlimited's Pikes Peak by Bike

204 S. 24th St., 633-6399, bikithikit.com

If you've got friends coming from lower altitudes who want to spend a day on a 14er, but not in a car and not on a train, make a reservation with Challenge Unlimited to ride Pikes Peak. Thanks to a 7,000-foot elevation loss, the 22-mile ride is pretty easy for even beginning bikers. (Really, there are just three stretches of uphill road.) You meet and grab a light breakfast in Old Colorado City, then get a ride to the top of the mountain, absorb the safety instructions, and follow a guide down the long and winding road — all the way to the Wines of Colorado for lunch. The groups stop a few times along the way, making for some great photo ops. — LE

Easy Hiking Trail

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

3550 W. High St., redrockcanyonopenspace.org

If you get to high ground at Red Rock Canyon Open Space and look north, it doesn't take much to imagine an age when the red jutting rocks at Garden of the Gods stretched to where you stand today, making an impressive connected petrological formation. But unlike its more popular sibling, Red Rocks now is all about the hiking and climbing; you won't find any paved sidewalks or baby strollers here. With myriad combinations of trails to choose from, some hikes can last for several miles, while others may be just a few hundred meters. And a few steep slopes aside, Red Rocks offers the smoothest hiking in the Springs area while still giving you the "out-and-about in the mountains" sense of gratitude. — MB

Difficult Hiking Trail

Manitou Incline

7 Hydro St., Manitou Springs, tiny.cc/84kdnx

Its menacing presence is visible for miles, looming over the Pikes Peak region like the Eye of Sauron. Its visage alone is a beacon to the masochistic at heart and a deterrent to those seeking self-preservation. But if you're looking to put your quads and calves to the ultimate test in a one-and-done experience, then the Manitou Incline is where you want to be. Originally part of a structure for hoisting cable cars full of people up and down Mount Manitou, it's now treated like a staircase to 8,500 feet by locals ranging from Olympic athletes to Fort Carson soldiers to that badass 60-year-old guy down the street. Closed for repairs in August, it's scheduled to reopen to all those folks in November or December. — MB

Martial Arts

Tai Chi Association of Colorado Springs

219 W. Colorado Ave., #310, 375-8336, taichicoloradosprings.com

Early next year, master instructor (Shifu) Michael Paler will travel to China — on his very first plane ride — to become an official disciple of the late Grand Master Wei Shu Ren, via his daughter. In doing so, Shifu Paler will join just two other people in the U.S. with this honor, according to the Tai Chi Association of Colorado Springs. That's one glowing endorsement, and one bolstered by the association's students, who come for self-defense classes or seeking pain relief in the restorative aspects of tai chi. The association is also active outside its immediate community, holding a Tai Chi & Qigong Day celebration each April downtown, free and open to all. — EA

Dance Studio

TrendZ Fitness

2360 Montebello Square Drive, 510-1218, trendzfitness.com

Don and Stefanie Quashie took their love for dance and fitness and turned it into a business three years ago. A year later, they opened their own studio. Today, TrendZ Fitness teaches Zumba, RIP, Hot Hula, and many other upbeat and enticing techniques. "What makes us different is the atmosphere we provide," says Don. "When a client walks through our doors, they immediately see the difference: a bright and beautiful studio, a welcoming staff of instructors and owners, as well as that 'personal feel.'" With big, bouncy floors and awesome lighting, TrendZ Fitness is one of the most hip studios in the Springs — and your clear favorite. — JC

Easy Biking Trail

New Santa Fe Regional Trail

Palmer Lake to Colorado Springs, along Fountain Creek

Want to get active, but not too active? You'd struggle to find an easier trail in town than this one, which runs along Fountain Creek. The 16 miles of it that's within city limits is actually called the Pikes Peak Greenway, but names aside, you can ride this relatively flat trail from Fountain to Palmer Lake. The city is continuing to work on the trail — one pitted section south of downtown recently saw a much-needed upgrade — so this well-loved path is likely to get even nicer in coming years. — JAS

Difficult Biking Trail

Captain Jack's

North Cheyenne Cañon Park

"The world famous Captain Jack's downhill," as it's described on MTBProject.com, comes in at No. 3 on the website's list of top trails in the Springs area. But these folks, too, agree with the locals that it's the best advanced trail around. The approximately 2.4-mile stretch of fast singletrack begins off High Drive, follows the base of Mays Peak in the Pike National Forest, rounds North Cheyenne Cañon and ends on Gold Camp Road near tunnel No. 1. Hit it while you can; as of press time, ownership of Jones Park was in limbo as City Council considers what to do with the portion of land owned by Colorado Springs Utilities, and may result in restricted trail access. Check trailsandopenspaces.org for updates. — CL

Writer's Pick
Local Instagram Project

Josh Kennard's "#YouAreAmazing" Campaign

Just about once a day since April, a photo has popped up in my Instagram feed from local artist and Olde World Bagels & Deli co-owner Josh Kennard. Each one features a hand-written sign that reads, "Has anyone told you you are amazing today?" Sometimes he's holding it in a selfie. Sometimes it's propped against a Colorado Springs landmark, like the Hank the Cowboy statue on Pikes Peak Avenue. Sometimes it appears as a tiny note in front of a piece of art. Kennard says this project is his attempt to work on "civic pride," adding, "The world is changing so I'm trying new things." Here's to you, Josh. You, and your work, are pretty amazing. — KA

Tourist Destination

Garden of the Gods

1805 N. 30th St., 634-6666, gardenofgods.com

In being named No. 2 park in the world by TripAdvisor, Garden of the Gods came in behind Vancouver's Stanley Park but ahead of Munich's English Garden, Madrid's Retiro Park and Singapore's Botanic Gardens. But you knew that. Maybe, however, you didn't know that in 1886, a bill was brought before Congress to make GoG, and everything between it and Pikes Peak, a national park. "If it had passed, it would have been the second National Park in the country, after Yellowstone," says president of Friends of Garden of the Gods, Melissa Walker. It didn't happen — issues with private property intervened — but 2 million visitors annually seem to like this city park just fine. — EA

Annual Outdoor Fest

Colorado Balloon Classic

balloonclassic.com

I joined the crowd of early risers to watch the Balloon Classic's final year of lifting off from Memorial Park over Labor Day weekend. Standing by Prospect Lake, I gazed upward as, one by one, dozens of balloons floated overhead, then came down to skim the lake's surface before reprising their slow, gas-fueled ascent. Event president and CEO, Patsy Buchwald, explains the balloonists sometimes "don't quite touch down, and sometimes they go in a little deeper than they planned, and the water drips for a long time. The crowd loves that one the best." While the Classic's next destination remains up in the air, Buchwald says "it's been our privilege to host this event for 38 years in Colorado Springs." — DM

Local Sports Store/Outdoor Outfitter

Mountain Chalet

226 N. Tejon St., 633-0732, mtnchalet.com

Well played, Mountain Chalet. Every year the Independent has asked, readers have dubbed this sneakily spacious downtown spot as the best locally owned sports store and outdoor outfitter. As you'd expect from a business that's been around for 46 years, the service is thorough. But honestly, I'd also pit its stock against virtually any big-box retailer. Asked about the most useful product offering, manager Tristan Gregory says he'd start with the backpack selection. And out of the brands they carry, his favorite is Osprey. — GS

Performing Arts Group/Program

Millibo Art Theatre

1626 S. Tejon St., 465-6321, themat.org

In a city that has more than a handful of long-standing performing arts organizations, Millibo Art Theatre occupies the No. 1 seat in 2014. Jim Jackson, Birgitta De Pree and their band of merry-makers live and breathe performing arts, from song and dance to improv. Over a dozen years, the MAT has developed 53 plays and presented nearly 150 new works, while also offering a plethora of workshops for both adults and children. If you haven't yet seen their new place in the Ivywild neighborhood, consider dropping in on Ten Minutes Max in November, where performers of all stripes do their best to entertain in, you guessed it, 10 minutes or less. — MB

Cultural Attraction/Museum

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

30 W. Dale St., 634-5583, csfineartscenter.org

Let's take a look at what's coming up in the next few months for your favorite cultural attraction. Dracula is on the FAC main stage until Nov. 2, closing the same day as Stuart Little on the second stage. In December, look for Mary Poppins on the main stage and WYNOT Radio Theatre on the second stage. And in February? Reefer Madness: The Musical. Beyond the stage, look for an array of gallery events, screenings and more. Photographer Heather Oelklaus is already scheduled for after the wildly successful Chihuly Rediscovered show. With all that coming up before spring, it's not hard to see why the FAC gets your love. — GS

Place to See Emerging Artists

The Modbo

17C E. Bijou St., 633-4240, themodbo.com

The Modbo has won Gold in this category four years in a row, which is quite an accomplishment for a gallery that's only open on Friday nights and by appointment. When Brett and Lauren Andrus first opened five-plus years ago, "It was a place for local artists to show their work, and for us it was a way to say, 'It's OK to buy local art,'" says Brett. So, how do they hear about the artists if those artists haven't ... emerged yet? "Our annual 'small works' show gets hundreds of submissions," Brett explains. "We also look for students who come through the art school we opened at Ivywild, and we always keep an eye out, looking both locally and regionally." — KK

Gallery
Place to Buy Art

Chavez Gallery

2616 W. Colorado Ave., #10, 963-6925, chavezartgallery.com

"Fun" is the most apt word for the gallery opened in April by Liese and Kris Chavez — she a painter, he a jeweler. Prices range from $1.50 for a postcard to $29 for a pair of "smug fish" glass earrings to thousands of dollars for paintings. "People of any income can love and support art," says Liese, who's this year's Best Artist winner (see right). Both have long lists of show credits, but neither has lost track of the whimsy of art — see the masks they've created for visitors to experiment with. "It's an art gallery with a curiosity-shop vibe," Liese says. An added bonus is that both ply their art in the shop, so visitors can watch. — PZ

Reason Not to Move to Denver

Traffic

You're bound to find it

We get it: "There's so much more to do there," and "All of [your] friends are up there." But before you pack your things and head downhill to the Mile High City, don't forget another aspect of Denver that you won't find in the Springs: traffic. You'll know you're really living the city life when you find yourself weaving through endless construction projects and parked in the gridlock along the I-25 corridor. Since as late as April of this year, Denver has seen several stints on INRIX Driving Intelligence's scorecard for the 25 most congested metros in the U.S. Have fun with that. We're not one for a life of traffic cones and brake lights; we'll be here with our potholes. — CL

Writer's Pick
Museum You May Not Have Known About

4th Infantry Division Museum

Building 6012B Nelson Blvd., Fort Carson, 524-0915, carson.army.mil/museum.html

It's not every day you find yourself face-to-face with a teapot and mirror that belonged to Saddam Hussein. They're banged up and humble, because they lived inside the spider hole inhabited by Hussein following his 2003 ousting in Iraq. They're here in Colorado Springs because the men and women of Fort Carson's very own 4th Infantry Division were dispatched to find him, and so they did, and brought back such souvenirs. This museum, though small in square footage, is big where it counts. Not only does it recount Fort Carson's own history (including the German POWs held there during World War II), but that of both World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, and obviously, Iraq. So totally worth your time. It's free, and you don't even have to get on base to visit — just make your way to Gate 1. — EA

Art Exhibition

Sideshow of the Absurd, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

From Oct. 11, 2013, to Jan. 12, 2014

Last fall, Sam Gappmayer announced his plan to step down as president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. But if uncertainty reigned at the FAC for a while, you couldn't tell in the gallery, where the featured exhibit felt wonderfully self-assured. Pamela Joseph's Sideshow of the Absurd was inspired by old-timey "freak shows," and here's how the Indy's Gracie Ramsdell described it at the time: "Some parts of the show move on their own, while others require a person to pull on a lever or step on a pad. You can find sculptures, paintings, drawings and a Torture Museum full of woodcuts of old-fashioned brassieres and voluptuous women, pin-up style. Each element features a woman in a potentially perilous scenario (witness the cat-strongwoman benching a partner), but taking her situation in stride." — KW

Artist

Liese Chavez

Chavez Gallery, 2616 W. Colorado Ave., 963-6925, chavezartgallery.com

Liese Chavez really, really wants to paint what she calls "luminous" skin. "I'm obsessed with it," she says. "I guess I feel like, the more tender a character I can create, the more likely the viewer will feel for the subject." So when an art professor in Bruges randomly reaches out to her via email, says he's become aware of her fixation on Flemish technique, and asks if he can provide some online tutelage, Chavez does a little Google stalking and then says: Absolutely. The man's feedback has been, well, pointed — you can blame it on his limited English, or not — but Chavez doesn't care. It's all in service of improving as an artist. Because despite having won this award for four years running, and having sold every oil painting she's done since April, and opened a gallery so inviting (see left) that my 5-year-old can spend an hour there and not get bored, Chavez says she still has "so much to learn." We all should be so green. — KW

Yoga Studio

cambio.

3326 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., #100, cambioyoga.com

For the second year in a row, cambio. has bubbled to the top of the yoga pot in town. It's no easy feat, given the ubiquity of studios here, but it could have something to do with cambio.'s friendliness-first approach. All classes are donation-based, making them eminently affordable, and there's something for just about everyone — in fact, there are classes running most days of the week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There's even a book club, wherein the October reading is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. But the vibe might be best summed up this way on cambio.'s website: "We Are All In This Together." Siddhartha would probably agree. — EA

Movie Theater

Kimball's Peak Three Theater

115 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 447-1945, kimballspeakthree.com

Really, what's left to say about this perennial Best Of winner? In all but one some-may-say-questionable year, Kimball's has taken home the gold as the Springs' top cinema. The downtown landmark is now celebrating its 20th year of lighting up the marquee on Pikes Peak Avenue with art house and mainstream titles. "It feels like we got over a big hurdle," says Kimball's general manager Matthew Stevens of the theater's anniversary year. Having once leaned more mainstream, Kimball's switched to more art house and indie films in 2004, when the megaplexes came to town. "Our passion is film," Stevens says, "and sharing it with the community." — CL

Reception/Banquet Facility
Place for a Wedding

The Pinery

12375 Black Forest Road, 495-9499; 775 W. Bijou St., 634-7772; thepinery.com

As someone currently planning her wedding, the one piece of advice I've gotten the most is: "Elope." The next most common sentiment: Enjoy the day. The Pinery will help with that. Between its in-house services and preferred vendors, just about every detail is covered. Those do command cost, but you also get what you pay for, and that's a picture-perfect wedding day that comes complete with all that headache-y crap most of us have no experience dealing with: linens and glassware, set-up and tear-down, transportation, etc. Plus, people who know what they're doing. Seven years of happy brides and grooms (and their mothers) can't be wrong. — EA

Casino

Wildwood Casino

119 Carbonate St., Cripple Creek, 719/244-9700, playwildwood.com

For an in-depth look at why Wildwood wins your wicked gambling heart for the second year in a row, we turn to the people — the people of Yelp. Some excerpts: "Things are shiny"; "the booze is free"; "I like it here"; "I shouldn't be giving this buffet a forth [sic] star, but there's nothing like it around currently to satisfy my crab leg cravings." And if that doesn't fill your slot with nickels, then get on down to The Cherry Pit, where "cherry tree prizes are always in bloom." (And by "always," they mean only between the hours of 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sundays.) Winner, winner, chicken — er, crab-leg — dinner! — BC

Affordable Family Fun

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road, 633-9925, cmzoo.org

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo strives to make every visit memorable, with tons of stuff to do for both adults and kids. Feed giraffes some lettuce, give an elephant some carrots, or ride the antique carousel. You can also observe animal husbandry training, or sign up as a conservation partner. According to a zoo spokesperson, the nonprofit's Quarters for Conservation program, wherein each guest is encouraged to put 25 cents of his or her admission fee toward a favorite conservation project, has raised more than half a million dollars since its launch in 2008. And this year, the zoo's Encounter Africa exhibit (established in 2013) took home a Significant Achievement Exhibit Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Nice zoo ya got there! — BW

Hotel

The Broadmoor

1 Lake Ave., 634-7711, broadmoor.com

Let's face it — this category is entirely too limiting for The Broadmoor. True, the resort offers more than 700 rooms, but it also has 18 dining options, a world-class spa, golf courses, tennis courts, and flowers everywhere, with not a petal out of place. Plus, two off-campus options have been added in the last two years: Cloud Camp atop Cheyenne Mountain, and the Ranch at Emerald Valley. President Steve Bartolin says international media have gone wild over the two wilderness additions, which have also been featured by USA Today and Forbes. "Some of the things we've been doing really expand the boundaries of what would be traditionally thought of as the hotel experience," he says, adding that the two outlying retreats provide a recreational experience that's "uniquely Colorado but tied to the mothership of the hotel." — PZ

Writer's Pick
Kickstarter-Come-to-Fruition

Ragged Print Co.

1609 S. Cascade Ave., raggedprint.com

High school art teacher and artist Holly Garlow was initially inspired to open a printmaking studio and gallery by her students. But without the funds to purchase equipment and materials, she took to Kickstarter in March. By April 11, she'd met her $6,500 goal and then some, and a few weeks later, she opened her doors in a house across the street from the Ivywild School. Since then, the schedule of events has included workshops in screen printing, intaglio and relief printing; gallery shows; open studio time for working artists; and even live music on the roof (weather permitting). — KA

Category We Forgot

Pilates Instructor

Yippee for abs. — KW

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