Boulder, Colorado

The City Everyone Loves to Love/Hate


Boulder day life     Photo: Woods Wheatcroft

VOTES: 1,701 (7.7%)

Yeah, yeah, we've had it with Boulder too. America's perennial fittest, happiest, healthiest, brainiest, VO2-maxiest, most educated, least stressed-out, without-a-doubt-better-than-your-burg town. The annoying truth: if you're an outdoor-sports fanatic, it's still a damn nice place to live—climbing and trail running out the back door, easy access to the Front Range, cosmopolitan trappings, collegiate verve, and a tribe of endurance freaks that could field its own Olympic squad. Sure, the real estate prices are on par with Monaco's, and the People's Republic is considered a cliché by other Coloradans (prairie dogs are a protected species there, after all). But with a populace that recognizes the city's outdoor ascendancy and is still dedicated to making it better—in June, Boulder opened Valmont Bike Park, 40 acres of jumps, drops, and racing tracks—it's hard not to give the town its due.

Staying Power: In 1967, locals passed a new sales tax in order to bankroll an open-space program, the first in the nation to be municipally funded. Today, the net result is more than 43,000 acres of green areas that help keep sprawl at a minimum. In addition, Boulder's educated populace (it has the most bachelor's and post-graduate degrees per capita in the nation) lures tech firms and startups that add high-paying jobs to the local economy, making the prices for those turn-of-the-century Victorians not as onerous as they may seem.

Playgrounds: Eldorado Canyon, just south of town, is a classic go-to for climbers, and cyclists can find empty pavement in all of the half-dozen canyons to the west. Skiers need to head farther afield, but nearly all of the classic I-70 resorts, like Copper Mountain and Vail, are within a two-hour drive.

The Voters Speak: "Twenty-seven square miles surrounded by reality, where hippies drive BMWs." "Live music scene includes local bands String Cheese Incident, Elephant Revival, and Leftover Salmon." "Filled with health Nazis, but as a jumping-off point for the Rockies, it's feakin' awesome."

From Outside Magazine, Oct 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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