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A good resource for those feeling Olympically inspired to get outdoors


I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics like most people and as usual it inspires me to get outside and back into the action a little bit. We live in the middle of a winter sports Mecca and our mountains are filled with loads of outdoor sports and leisure activities. All you have to do is get in the car and head west. You’ll find something interesting to see or do.

But what separates those of us who live here from the visitors just passing through is being able to get involved in doing things in the mountains that aren’t always listed in the tourist brochures. Our backcountry is filled with hidden treasures and activities that we have an opportunity to explore and experience, but sometimes you need a little guidance to find out about them.

Our mountains are beautiful to look at. It’s also easy to access them and get to a lot of places. We have an Interstate highway running right through the middle of them. You can spend a lot of days just driving around checking places out. But once you get out of the safety of the car and town parking lots and start wandering around up there, a whole different set of rules and circumstances start to apply. As beautiful as they are, our mountains can be very dangerous places at the same time.

There aren’t many other places in the country that post avalanche warnings on their local news or talk about four feet of snow like it’s a good thing. There also aren’t many places that have as many backcountry rescue units on constant standby either.

Growing up here I had the opportunities to learn a lot about how to fully enjoy our mountain activities safely and heard about lots of great places through the grapevine from other friends. We even had an outdoor lab, which was kind of like a mountain boot camp, as a part of our public schools. You learned how to be smart up there in the fifth and sixth grades. But, we have a lot of people living in the area now that didn’t get a chance to have those kinds of learning experiences as kids growing up.

I bring this subject up about this time every year because spring is just around the corner and summer is one of the best times to get out and start getting involved with mountain activities that will be fun and prepare you better for heading up there once the weather turns cold.

If you live here in Golden and have any real interest in getting out and fully enjoying all of what we have to experience you need to go to one place, www.cmc.org.

That’s the Colorado Mountain Club’s website. Founded in 1912, it’s the oldest and best organized mountaineering club in the nation and their headquarters is right here in Golden at the American Mountaineering Center at 10th Street and Washington Avenue.

Usually I highlight one or two events or activities per week in this column, but this week I’m giving you the gateway to a place that has over 3,000 member led events per year (there’s 365 days a year, you do the math). It also has classes for all ages and ability levels, film festivals, lectures, volunteer opportunities and loads of people to connect with to have fun in the mountains.

Now, when people hear the word “mountaineering” they usually picture someone hanging off a cliff with a rope trying to get to the top so they can yodel or something. The CMC is about the broadest definition of the word. It includes mountain climbing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, mountain biking, back country camping, outdoor photography and pretty much anything else you could do up in the mountains. If you want to learn about it, find other people to have fun with, find places that you never knew existed and never be bored, check out this club.

Dues are inexpensive, they offer loads of things to their members and most importantly, it gives you the knowledge and experiences necessary to fully enjoy our high country and come back home safely.

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multi-media production. He can be reached at jaimaging@aol.com


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