Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food, Fun and Fitness...with a Rocky Mountain Slant

There was no Hootie Hoo celebration Wednesday night after the celebration of Top Chef (sob). While Liz's wishes for Carla to be named the Season 5 winner of Bravo's Top Chef didn't come true, Hosea Rosenberg's win made me have Boulder on my mind. I'm addicted to food as much as I'm addicted to fitness so I was trying to devise a way to tie them together--and create an excuse for a vacation at the same time. So here's the idea: Have your fun with fitness, and eat it too by planning an active Colorado adventure.

I'm heading out to Colorado next week for a ski trip and am currently plotting a way to make it to the restaurant Hosea works at in Boulder, Jax Fish House. Boulder embodies the endurance lifestyle as many of us probably know, and many of us in the Chicago flatlands probably wish that we could visit--or even better move--there for both key training and catching glimpses of our favorite endurance athletes (I know I wouldn't be opposed to having Cam Widoff or the Reeds leave me in the dust at a Stroke n Stride). And with flights readily available from Chicago to Denver--and at falling prices--now's as good a time as any to head to the Rockies. Well with the exception of Hosea's new-found fame possibly affecting the crowds at his stomping grounds, Jax.

Here's a list of fitness options, with an endurance athlete focus at hear, in the Rockies, plus a dining spot to refuel afterward:

  • Backcountry skiing. Want a taste of the backcountry experience without needing the avalance knowledge and equipment to actually venture out? Reserve a spot at Keystone's KAT Skiing adventure where you can take secluded runs all day in a snowcat transporting you up the Independence Bowl. Talk about fresh powder and quad burn. Best part is the refueling is built into the package: You lunch at a yurt in the bowl. Soup and sandwiches elevated to gourmet style plus enough dessert (cheesecake when I was there last year) to stop any stomach growls.
  • Snowshoeing. Prepare for the running season ahead by tackling a snowy field on snowshoes. Not only are you exploring trails but you're elevating the heart rate. And if you can time it right to be within driving distance of the Keystone Nordic Center during a full moon, you can sign up for the Full Moon Snowshoe where you take an evening tour of the trails (without missing a ski day) then head back to the lodge for a filling soup dinner. Help yourself to endless bowls of homemade soups, plenty of bread and top it off with homemade cookies and ice cream. If Top Chef was solely a soup competition, these guys would be the victors.
  • Kayaking. If you have even a few hours to spare in Denver, beeline to the REI flagship store downtown and rent a kayak. You can put-in from the store and take a paddle down Cherry Creek and back. Who said a metropolis couldn't have an assortment of active pursuits? To refuel, I'm going to divert to a list of Denver hot spots Rachael Ray shared on Tasty Travels. I can't locate a buffalo tourist trap I went to years ago and my brother-in-law jokingly recommends a Mexican themed sideshow Casa Bonita, neither of which would be deemed Top Chef worthy.
  • Mountain biking. Take to the trails in and around Boulder for this activity that will keep many a Coloradoan pedaling unless there's a massive snowfall. Not to mention, Boulder is a bike-friendly city so you won't feel like you're doing something wrong by choosing two wheels over four. After a day-long battle with the singletrack, head to Jax Fish House to check out Top Chef winner Hosea's culinary expertise. If you got to dine at Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard's place Scylla (in Wicker Park/Bucktown) before it closed, then you know you'll be pleasing your tastebuds and your tummy. And if it's too crowded at Jax, check out other Season 5 contestant Melissa Harrison at her Boulder locale: Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace.
  • Hiking. I don't know if it's the best, but Rocky Mountain National Park certainly has some of my favorite hikes west of the Mississippi. And with the elevation creeping up to 13,000 feet on some of the peaks, it kicks your metabolism into high gear while adding super strength to your legs. Totally worth the drive into the Boulder area, refuel with fine dining at the Flagstaff House. It's received acclaim from Road Tasted on the Food Network and in Bon Appetit magazine.
  • Skiing. It's still winter and the ski season is in full swing so why not head to Vail, the largest ski area in Colorado, topping 5,000 skiable acres. You can ski miles to give your legs a full workout and burn more than 2,000 calories a day. And being in the Vail Valley, you have fine dining and an array of cuisines at your fingertips. I'm a fan of seafood spot Montauk in Lionshead, Bully Ranch tucked away in the Sonnenalp and Blu's along Gore Creek. But there's so much to choose from--including fine dining spots like Sweet Basil and Left Bank--you can splurge or go cheap and feed that hunger either way.

Well, I've made myself hungry and yearning for a workout after writing this list. Not to mention, I'm really yearning to ski right about now. Too many hours on a spin bike and the elliptical due to cold, snow and a lack of motivation to go running have had me living in a gym since December. I'm ready to log some endurance miles somewhere else. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

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