Let’s all take a moment to smile and enjoy the long days bathed in sunshine. The last two years reminded us how lucky we are to live how and where we do. It’s time to shrug off the sluggishness of a cold winter. It’s time to turn up the adrenaline. Time to fly, float, drift, speed and swim in the summer sun.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Since the dawn of man, we’ve looked with wonderment at the creatures that flutter, float and fly across the sky. Greek legend speaks of Icarus, a young man who took flight but failed to account for the sun’s heat upon his waxed wings.
Flight is an urge as old as time. You can satisfy that urge and enjoy a better fate than Icarus if you choose to float over the Front Range in a hot air balloon. Anyone up with the sun in the summertime has seen colorful giant spheres drifting during a cloudless Boulder dawn.
Anyone can enjoy a 90-minute drift, with help from Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights, which operates just outside of Boulder. One moment you’re on the ground and, in a few minutes, you are eyeball to eyeball with a bird.
The company operates May 1 to Thanksgiving. Flights cost around $250 per person, or $700 per person for a private experience. You also get a parting gift bag with champagne or sparkling cider (sometimes juice), a t-shirt, balloon pin and a personalized flight certificate.
Weather conditions allow for only one flight a day, right after sunrise.
The experience is like no other. Imagine being seated in a comfy chair as it slowly, and gently, lifts thousands of feet skyward. You are the cloud. Enjoy it.
For more information about flights visit www.HotAirBalloonRidesColorado.com.
Practice Indoor Floating
Now that your gentle Rocky Mountain sky drift is done, it’s time to enhance a new challenge. How about some skydiving, without a plane or a parachute?
You don’t need either to experience skydiving. In fact, at iFLY Indoor Skydiving, you barely get off the ground. The magic comes inside a giant wind tube, which provides the perfect conditions to simulate an actual sky fall.
You simply enter a wind-filled tunnel and lean forward into the gushing air. An instructor holds on to help you find the best position for the simulated plunge.
The flights last a minute, to replicate the actual time of a true skydive.
But in this case, there is no falling. You just lean forward into the tunnel and let the wind support you like a bed.
“You go from standing to floating,” said Meghan Evilsizor, general manager with iFLY Indoor Skydiving in Lone Tree. “You are never falling, and you never get that falling feeling.”
Evilsizor has extensive skydiving experience. She’s logged more than 1,300 jumps.
“The experience is hard to describe,” Evilsizor said. “You’re flying. And it leads to a sense of freedom and stress release. It’s also very emotional, because you are trying something new, and you are happy about it.”
Experienced trainers are on hand to instruct and guide the new divers through maneuvers. It takes time to adjust, but with experience, even novices can learn a range of flying turns and twists. The fun is open to anyone aged 3 and up.
The flight simulator is also used by top-level skydivers.
“Skydivers use our factify for training,” Evilsizor said. “Just like using an indoor climbing gym for climbing practice.”
For more details, visit www.iflyworld.com.
Now that the simulated fall is in the bag, time for the real deal. No simulator, just you tethered to a pro in a small plane cruising at 12,000 feet.
Mile-Hi Skydiving Center in Longmont is the place to cross skydiving off the old bucket list.
“It’s an experience like no other,” said John Coleman, the company’s dropzone manager. “You get unbeatable views of the majestic Rocky Mountains from a perspective that is truly unique; jumping from an aircraft traveling over 100 miles per hour from 12,500 feet.”
Freefall speeds hit 130 mph for nearly a minute before you — and your tandem professional skydiver — land together in an open field.
Mile-Hi Skydiving Center has the state’s largest and longest-running dropzone. They’ve handled more than 1 million jumps so far.
“While motivations to jump from a perfectly good airplane differ vastly, a common recurring theme is the ‘bucket-list’ jumper who simply wants to say they overcame their fears, gathered all their courage and took the leap of faith into the adrenaline-packed world of skydiving,” Coleman said.
The skydiving is open to first-timers, licensed skydivers and aspiring students.
For more information, visit www.mile-hi-skydiving.com.
Complete a Zipline Course
Of course, you don’t have to drop from a plane to enjoy a surge of adrenalized fun.
Want to fly above Castle Rock while hitting speeds of 60 mph? No worries, because the zipline course at The Edge has you dialed in for two miles of adventure.
Ziplining is a whirlwind of an experience. Those who have taken part say is just like flying. For a moment, you are a bird, a plane or just a happy soul skimming above the earth.
The no-fall factor of ziplining helps encourage guests to comfortably face their fear of heights, as it is a straightforward and gravity-fed ride. Ziplining is a confidence-boosting and team-building activity as well, especially for those who are facing their fears. You’ll even get your steps in for the day hiking the trails in Phillip S. Miller Park while navigating to the next zipline.
Zipliners learn new skills such as self-braking and steering, creating an experience that allows guests to feel in control and trust of themselves and their gear while under guided supervision.
There is a mile of native trail hiking throughout the zipline tour with extraordinary views of Pikes Peak, Devils Head and the Front Range.
The tour begins at a small training course called “ground school,” where guides teach the incoming group how and when to steer and brake along the line. The first hike will bring you up to a 200-foot zipline to try out your new skills. Each hike will bring you to another line that is longer and faster, building all the way up to a 1,500-foot dual race line for the final ride. Pick a partner and make your bets on who will conquer the zipline tour first!
There is no age requirement at The Edge. Anyone between 70-250 pounds can enjoy the zipline experience, so long as you’re comfortable with a little hiking.
To learn more, visit theedgezip.com.
Train like a Warrior
Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to compete for a shot on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior?”
That seemingly impossible dream begins at Warrior Playground in Longmont.
The Warrior Playground is a full-scale American Ninja Warrior and Obstacle Course Race (OCR) training facility for kids and adults to experience the thrill of tackling the obstacles they see on the TV show. The Warrior Playground features many obstacle replicas straight from the show.
The ninja gym also hosts all types of special events like ninja competitions, fundraisers, team-building events, birthday parties, school field trips, private groups and mobile ninja events.
You don’t have to be a super athlete to enjoy the scene, either. It is for anyone and everyone, said Sam Banola, owner of Warrior Playground.
“The majority of people who come here are somewhat bored with the typical workout and want more challenge and fun. We fit that well,” he said.
The ninja training is great for kids because it lets them climb, run, jump, swim and challenge their bodies like TV ninjas.
Banola, who has more than 25 years of fitness training experience, opened the facility in 2016.
“I came to Colorado in 2014 and found a ninja gym. It was super fun, and I knew I needed to make that training part of my next gym,” Banola said. “This kind of training is a real adventure. It’s an adventure for your body and it is amazing to see what the body is capable of, no matter if you are 10 years old or an adult.”
The gym is open to anyone. Memberships run between $100 to $200 a month.
To learn more, visit www.warriorplayground.com.
Enough of this flying, climbing and falling. Let’s get back to Mother Earth and put the pedal to the metal. It’s speed-racer time with the fastest go-karts in the state. Not far from Boulder rests a mecca for dirt motorsports: IMI Motorsports Complex. Here, you’ll find 120 acres of race track.
“We have been here in Dacono since 1989,” said Jessy Gordon, an assistant manager with IMI Motorsports Complex. “We are Colorado’s best-kept secret.”
The go-karts ride just an inch or so above the track, so the speeds seem much faster to those brave enough to take on the challenge.
“The karts go over 65 mph, if you can handle it,” Gordon said. “They can hold more Gs in the corners than cars.”
The karts are automatic and easy to operate. Racers get a chance to zip along a banked mile-long track. You get 15 minutes of racing for $50. Average riders can get in 10 to 12 laps. Newer and faster karts are expected to arrive soon.
“It’s a simple process,” Gordon said. “You show up and ask to rent a kart, fill out waivers and I send you to the pits.”
You are then given instruction on the karts, provided a fire suit, neck brace and gloves. Next up: the open track.
The Dacono fun park is filled with plenty of other activities for dirt bike riders, drift car drivers or pursuers of almost any kind of dirt motorsport.
Those seeking a little Tokyo Drift can watch professional drifters practicing on the course.
“This is a pretty interesting place and there is nothing like it,” Gordon said. “If you want dirt motorsport action, we have it all.”
For more details, visit www.imimotorsports.com.
Go Whitewater Rafting
Few things scream “Colorado” like a soaking wet adventure on a river.
The state is loaded with whitewater rafting options. You can even take a tube float along Boulder Creek. But if whitewater is on your bucket list, you can take a short trip to Idaho Springs and check out the adventures at Clear Creek Rafting Company.
“You can’t find whitewater everywhere,” said Susan Paterson, one of the rafting company’s owners. “But Colorado is an essential place for it.”
The action can require some physical effort and coordination. You’ll work up a sweat as you paddle hard and bounce along a rushing river.
The company runs a range of rapid adventures. Beginners to seasoned rafters are all welcome. Kids seven and up can take part.
“We have different levels of trips and can cater one to your level of adventure,” Paterson said. “We have enough options to make sure that you can get excited without being terrified.”
Rafting on Clear Creek in Idaho Springs usually starts in mid-May. The season ends in mid-August, but the company runs trips on the Arkansas River through Labor Day.
There is a risk involved in rafting that can’t be controlled, but Clear Creek Rafting Company
uses experienced guides who can provide an exhilarating trip without falling into a danger zone.
To learn more, visit clearcreekrafting.com.
Swim in the Wild
Anyone can float or do laps in a pool. But few take swimming to the ultimate level and plunge into a wild, rushing river.
Wild water swimming is not for everyone. It takes training, endurance and a support team for protection. But for those who are more manatee than man, the experience is beyond compare.
“When people ask what’s the big difference between a pool and open water, I explain that swimming in open water is like being on a hiking trail around a beautiful mountain with varied terrain. Swimming in a pool is like running on a track,” said Matthew Moseley, a veteran wild water swimmer. “Wherever your travels take you this summer, there is usually a place to swim if you look hard enough, whether it be a lake, river or ocean. Find water that will work for your ability and level of support. Grab a friend and go.”
Moseley, an environmental activist and a partner with American Rivers, has taken on water across the world.
“Swimming in an ocean is the most interesting and challenging of all the open water options,” he said. “In the ocean, you are prepared for currents, wildlife, choppy waters, saltiness and chaffing. But also, beauty and adventure.”
Coloradoans don’t have an ocean to dip in, but open wild water is everywhere.
Moseley adds that lakes such as the Boulder Reservoir, Carter Lake, Chatfield Reservoir and Nottingham Lake are good spots to start the challenge. The Colorado and Green Rivers, which go through Canyonlands in Utah, are also great locations to take a wild plunge.
“Wild swimming is completely different,” Moseley said. “It is a liberating, more exhilarating experience than just the same old laps in a gym pool.”
No matter where you swim, be sure to have support and be careful.
“In wild swims, you must always expect the unexpected,” Moseley said. “When I swam across the Caribbean from St. John to outside of Puerto Rico, currents forced me to end up on the wrong island of Culebrita. Just because you are a good swimmer in the pool, open water swimming still requires practice, patience and perseverance.”