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From “ass clowns” to Bigfoot: The 10 most popular Colorado outdoor recreation stories of 2023

Plus hiking, skiing, camping and more. This is what you wanted to read about this year.

an SUV got stuck on Black Bear Pass and had to be rescued. (Photo via San Miguel Sheriff’s Office on Twitter)
an SUV got stuck on Black Bear Pass and had to be rescued. (Photo via San Miguel Sheriff’s Office on Twitter)
1DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 17: A head shot of Jonathan Shikes, Entertainment Editor/The Know on October 17, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Coloradans (and Colorado visitors) love to get outdoors, whether it’s to ski and stargaze, camp and hike — or to drive onto dirt roads until they get stuck and have to be rescued.

And The Denver Post’s readers love to dig into those stories. This year, as always, skiing was one of the top topics of discussion, especially Epic Pass sales and a resort ranking. But hiking and camping were also big, especially when it came to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We also had an unusual sighting, literally, in our top 10. But we’ll let you see that for yourself. Here are our 10 most-read outdoor recreation stories of the year, with the number-one story at the end.

Bad drivers in the backcountry are a big problem

The sheriff in San Miguel County called a group of people who slid off Black Bear Pass in their truck “ass clowns,” which is funny. But the problem is real: More and more people, who lack skills or experience or proper maps, are driving on backcountry roads they can’t handle in Colorado — or simply ignoring closures — resulting in more rescues.

First-of-its-kind hiking permit proposed for Blue Lakes

The gorgeous Blue Lakes in the San Juan Mountains near Telluride have become so crowded in recent years that the U.S. Forest Service wants to require permits just to hike there during the day — as well as to camp. The goal of the plan, which would be the first in Colorado of its kind on forest service land, is to reduce the environmental impact of recreation.

Colorado’s oldest chairlift will be retired at age 70

Sunlight Mountain Resort’s Sunlight chairlift began its long life at Aspen in 1954 before being relocated in 1973. Since then, it has faithfully served skiers at Sunlight. The relic of ski history engineering is still safe, but is scheduled to be put out to pasture this spring.

Chasm Lake sits 2,500 feet below the dramatic summit of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park at an elevation of 11,800 feet. The upper 900 feet of Longs' east face is sheer vertical granite. The lake is enclosed on three sides by steep rock walls, making it one of the most spectacular alpine cirques in Colorado. (John Meyer, The Denver Post)
Chasm Lake sits 2,500 feet below the dramatic summit of Longs Peak. (John Meyer, The Denver Post)

High-alpine lake is one of Colorado’s most spectacular hikes

Nearly 2,500 feet below the summit of Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful alpine tarn called Chasm Lake. The 4.2 hike to get there is strenuous, but the steep rock walls soaring into the air above the water make it one of the most beautiful payoffs in Colorado.

Another hassle awaits Rocky Mountain National Park visitors

Rocky Mountain National Park has been feeling the heat. Not only will its busiest campground, Moraine Park, be closed into this summer (see below), but visitation continues to soar, resulting in what will likely be a permanent ticketing system. To make things worse, one of its two Estes Park-area entrances, Fall River, was under construction all summer and fall.

Epic Pass prices increase, early bird on sale for 2023-24 season

Vail Resorts announced its early bird prices in March for this season’s Epic Passes — and Denver Post readers wanted to know all about it. Of course they did. The pass, which includes Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge and Crested Butte, is one of the hottest items in Colorado. so the costs, the on-sale dates and every other detail is big news.

The first leg of the new 10-person Wild Blue Gondola at Steamboat Resort began operation last winter. This year it has been extended to the summit of the mountain, allowing visitors to get from the resort base to the top in just 13 minutes. Before this year, getting to the top required multiple lift rides. The Steamboat gondola continues to run from the base to Thunderhead at mid-mountain. (Steamboat Ski Resort)
Steamboat was named as the best ski resort in North America by an industry website. (Steamboat Ski Resort)

Colorado ski resort named the best in North America by website

Magazines, newspapers and websites love to rank things, including ski resorts, and since Colorado has some of the best in the world, they often end up on lists. In March, readers of OnTheSnow, a website, voted Steamboat as North America’s best overall resort.

Campground closure at RMNP could have ripple effect across Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park’s largest campground, the immensely popular Moraine Park, shut down last summer so it could undergo a major modernization project, meaning 244 fewer sites in the area. That figured to put more pressure on nearby campgrounds in the adjacent and already overloaded national forests. The campground will hopefully reopen in June 2024.

Coloradans may see Northern Lights more often in coming months

Seeing the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is on a lot of people’s bucket lists. So, how cool would it be to be able to see them from Colorado rather than having to travel to the Arctic? Space weather predictors say there is more of a possibility of that happening in 2024 with increasing solar storm activity — something that happens in an 11-year cycle.

Which mythical creature is less likely to actually be spotted: Bigfoot or the Moderate Republican?
Thinkstock by Getty Images
Was Bigfoot spotted in southern Colorado? (Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Bigfoot may have been caught on camera from Durango train

In October, a Wyoming couple was looking for elk while riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwest Colorado when they spotted, well, something that looked like Bigfoot. The story made national news after a video taken by another passenger went viral online. Was it really the famed but elusive cryptid? We’ll let you judge for yourself. See our story, with video, here.

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