El Nino Impact For Colorado Skiing

Who Wants A Monster Ski Season?

I do, I do, and with all this talk of El Nino, we might just get one.

El Nino Coming To ColoradoYou can’t have missed the all the talk on the news of the El Nino weather pattern that continues to grow in the Pacific Ocean, and what that cycle might mean for skiers this coming winter.

References to ‘Godzilla’ and comparative studies to the 1998 El Nino (AKA the ‘King Kong’ of `98) that smothered Colorado in feet of powder suggest that we could indeed be in for a MONSTER ski season.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

So what exactly is El Nino?  Well, after extensive research, I was able to put together the following definitions.

El Nino – Defined By Dictionary.com as:

A warm ocean current of variable intensity that develops after late December along the cost of Ecuador and Peru and sometimes cause catastrophic weather conditions.

El Nino – Defined By Old Time Skiers as:  Powder

El Nino – Defined By Chris Farely as:

Yes, it’s still a little early in the day to make definite predictions, but with all this crazy weather talk, this half-full kind of gal is eyeballing some new powder skis for this ski season!

While we’re on the subject of the upcoming ski season, Winter Park has a couple of changes going on that are well worth mentioning.

The first, is the introduction of new Hands-Free RFTD lift passes.   These chip embedded passes will replace all paper tickets and should significantly speed up the lift boarding process at all base area lifts.

How do they work?  Simple.  Skiers just stow away the pass in their jacket pocket and the soon to be installed lift gates will automatically open when the pass holder walks through the scanner.  Rumor has it that your ski pass photo might also pop up for the Lift Crew to verify you as the pass holder, so make sure you smile pretty for the camera this year.

Next up for discussion is the opening and closing of a couple of stores and restaurants opening in Base Village.  Rocky Mountain Eyewear (next to Riverside Spirits) has been replaced by a traditional Candy Sweet Shop with an awesome selection of yumminess guaranteed to have your kids bouncing off the walls in no time.  The other big change is the departure of the Cheeky Monk, we’ve not heard what it will be replaced with yet, but will keep you posted with any updates.

The last (and admittedly very unofficial, but a gem of a rumor), is that we’ve head a whisper in the wind that Winter Park Resort is toying with the idea of taking on A-Basin & Loveland as the ‘Last Man Skiing’ resort for 2016.  Nothing has been confirmed by Winter Park Resort, and the last official word on the street was that the resort is still scheduled to close in Mid April, but the rumor going around town is that there’s a possibility that areas of the resort could stay open as late as May 7th???

Whatever the truth, so long as El Nino does his thing, we’re going to be in for an epic 2015/2016 ski season, so plan on coming up to Winter Park to join in the fun.

To browse our 145+vacation rentals in snowy Winter Park, CLICK HERE.

 

Where To Dine Out For Thanksgiving

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With such great lodging deals in November, now is definitely the time to book your Thanksgiving getaway. So what if you don’t feel like cooking a feast during your vacation? Don’t worry, you’re not the only person who feels this way! Luckily, many local restauranteurs always come to the rescue with beautiful and tasty Thanksgiving fare throughout the day, or if Thanksgiving food isn’t your thing, you can order off their regular menus. We went ahead and compiled a list of a few of our favorite spots.

Deno’s Mountain Bistro – A longtime favorite among visitors and locals alike, Deno’s has the type of atmosphere perfect for family memories. Cozy and charming décor with expertly-crafted cocktails and a vast wine selection, plus a thoughtful and delicious menu featuring a delectable Greek Fusion theme. Check back on their facebook page for more information on their Thanksgiving specials.

DaVinci – This “Modern European” Restaurant is both chic and classic, with dishes to satisfy the traditional eater, as well as a selection of delicious treats for the foodie in your group. The atmosphere is comfortable and the staff are friendly, definitely an elegant way to spend the holiday. Check their website for more information and specials.

Hernando’s Pizza Pub – This family-friendly restaurant makes the best pies around! Try putting honey on your crusts, you’ll never go back. The atmosphere is quaint and cool, and you’ll sure grow to appreciate the American dollar in this joint! If dining out isn’t your thing, consider carry-out for a delicious night in. Check their facebook page for more information and specials. 

Tabernash Tavern – This is one of our favorite places for a date! Even more special on Thanksgiving, the high-end rustic charm of the Tavern is the perfect romantic compliment to a delicious dinner for two. A great beer selection and marvelously opulent and delicious food pairings make for an experience you will definitely crave again! Check out their facebook page for more information and specials.

Volario’s – The signature restaurant at the Vasquez Creek Inn, Volario’s is an exquisite blend of Spanish and Northern Italian fare. The fresh and vibrant atmosphere will make your group feel right at home.You’ll love the meatballs or the pizzetas, and be sure to check back on their facebook page to see what Thanksgiving offerings are in store for you!

We hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving in the mountains, and if you have any other suggestions for a fabulous Turkey Day restaurant, let us know on our facebook page!

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We hope to see you soon! If you are planning a Thanksgiving getaway in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

Where To Watch The Aspens Change

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If you haven’t experienced autumn in the mountains, trust us, you’re missing out! Every season up here offers its own unique beauty, but the changing of the aspens is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring experiences you and your family can have together. We love how easily the vibrant trees lend themselves to beautiful photos and fond memories. That’s why we’ve hand-picked a list of our favorite scenic drives and destinations to watch this incredible phenomenon. Grab a latte and your camera, and hit the road. You’re in for an amazing day of leaf-watching.

Meadow Creek Reservoir (Map)

Driving above Devil’s Thumb gets you to this serene reservoir, surrounded by trees and wildlife. Picnic areas at this spot include fire pits, so you can make s’mores and hot chocolate while you relax and watch the leaves.

Devil’s Thumb (Map)

This destination is a wonderful place to walk around, or enjoy a beer by the bonfire as the sunsets. Even better, catch a sunset and see the alpenglow over the mountains over the trees.

Snow Mountain Ranch (Map)

The YMCA/Snow Mountain Ranch is just a short drive from Winter Park, nestled alongside Highway 40 in Granby. The ranch itself is a beautiful place to hang out, but it’s also the start to a number of hiking trails to get up close and personal with nature.

Columbine Lake Trail (Map) This fantastic and well-maintained hike takes you through the Indian Peaks wilderness. It’s a moderate hike, a gradual incline with a few scrambles, and the views are striking.

Trail Ridge (Map) Trail Ridge Road is the name for Highway 34, which traverses Rocky Mountain National Park, a picturesque setting to not only see the leaves, but for an incredible wildlife experience during the yearly Elk Rut.  (More info on the elks here!)

Cottonwood Pass* (Map) A short drive from Hot Sulphur Springs, this is one of those routes you won’t soon forget. Deemed by many a “mountain wonderland,” this is the epitome of nature’s idyllic beauty. 

Monarch Lake* (Map) The drive to the trailhead of Monarch Lake is incredibly scenic, running alongside the water through Grand Lake. You’ll love the feel of this well-maintained trail, with superb views of the trees changing all around you.

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Bring your camera and come on up,  hope to see you soon! If you are planning a leaf-spotting vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

What to Pack for Your Fall Vacation

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So they say, an ounce of cure is worth a pound of prevention, and the best way to pack for your mountain stay is to come prepared. That doesn’t mean you have to pack an insanely full car, either! We’ve compiled a list of must-haves (and must-skips) to make sure you can pack light and enjoy your stay.

First, What to Bring:

  1. We’ve said it before, but the sun up here is no joke. Bring SPF. Wear it. Reapply. Bring a good pair of sunglasses and a hat. Even in the fall and winter, sun protection is your friend.
  2. A light jacket or a hoodie is a must. You’re going to find that it could be cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon, and cold again in the evening. Bring layers and wear them! It’s the worst to be stuck in a bulky sweater because you dressed for the cold morning. You’re going to want to wear items that you can easily remove (or put back on!).
  3. Well-worn shoes. Especially if you’re hiking, you’re going to want shoes that you can trust. Blisters happen, and they can ruin your experience.
  4. A reusable water bottle and a way to transport it. Maybe you hook it to your backpack with a carabiner, or maybe your purse has a little pouch for it. Either way, you’re going to want to stay hydrated, and you’re not going to want to have to deal with shuffling your water bottle around every time you want to Instagram something (and trust us, you’re going to want to take pictures of everything!).

Second, What to Skip

  1. The stilettos. Many walkways and stairways up here are grated to allow for the snow to pass through in the winter. You’re going to look pretty funny trying to walk across them in your pumps! We’re not saying you can’t dress up for a nice dinner, but opt for a pair of cute wedges or flats that you can wear on more than one occasion. If you’re fabulous, be fabulous and practical!
  2. Cheap sunglasses. If you can, spring for a more expensive polarized lens.
  3. Fanny packs, fold-up chairs, most “travel” gear (you know, those zip-off pants? Twenty pockets on a vest? You don’t need that stuff unless you’re fishing or going on an extreme excursion!). While Winter Park is technically a small town, we offer all the modern amenities you’ll need, and it’s safe to store any of your belongings at all of our homes. Don’t think you have to carry everything with you, and it’s okay to dress how you do at home! 
  4. The over-stuffed cooler. Now, sometimes we love packing a full cooler with goodies from home, but we have fully-stocked grocery stores up here, too! If your family is keen on taking a picnic, you can bring an empty cooler and fill it with fresh food from one of the grocers up here.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When you’re in Winter Park, follow the above advice for a fabulous fall mountain getaway!

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Pack your bags and come on up,  hope to see you soon! If you are planning your fall or winter vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

 

Where To Watch The Game In Winter Park

Where to Watch the Game

Even in Colorado’s favorite playground, we know that the occasion arises where you simply need to watch the game. That time of year is certainly upon us! Maybe you’re in a fantasy league, or maybe you’re just a die-hard fan of your alma mater. Pro or college, there are several spots to watch the game in town. Here are a few of our favorites.

The Crooked Creek Saloon

With a full bar and restaurant, this Fraser spot has delicious home-cooked food and a laid-back local atmosphere, perfect for hanging out with your buddies and sharing some wings. (Website)

The Library

This space is an equal-opportunity venue, with flags from every college team decorating the walls. An fan is likely to feel right at home here, with a selection of locally-brewed beers on tap and a full menu, plus tons of televisions to make sure your team is showing. (Website)

The Winter Park Pub

Great food, great beers and a mellow atmosphere make for the ideal place to watch the game and socialize. During halftime, you can enjoy a round of skee-ball! (facebook)

The Foundry

This is a really cool way to enjoy a game and bowl a few rounds with friends. The enormous screens project the game while you (hopefully) throw a few strikes. Delicious food- trust us, you should try the drummettes! In years past they’ve allowed patrons to view the games in the movie theatre—and we sure hope they bring that back this year! (Website)

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We hope you have fun this fall watching your team, and good luck!

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Make sure to bring your favorite team shirt,  hope to see you soon! If you are planning your fall or winter vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

Summer 2015: Live Music In Winter Park

Something we really love about Winter Park is the seemingly limitless access to live music, and a lot of it’s free to attend. We can’t wait for the Solshine Festival, The Winter Park Music Festival, and all kinds of other acts peppered throughout the rest of summer. Here are a few acts that we’re definitely looking forward to seeing live. 

Leftover Salmon, August 1 Solshine Music Festival, at Hideaway Park. Admission: FREE

 

Cowboy Dave, August 6 for High Note Thursdays at Hideaway Park. Admission: FREE

 

Trout Steak Revival, August 8 at Winter Park Beer Festival, brought to you by Always Mountain Time. Admission: $30 advance GA

 

38 Special, August 15 at Winter Park Music Festival. Admission: FREE

 

Lou Gramm, August 15 at Winter Park Music Festival. Admission: FREE

Bring your lawn chairs and come on up,  hope to see you soon! If you are planning a summer concert vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

Leave Us Alone! Wildlife Safety Tips

Tempting though it may be to chase after animals for that fantastic Instagram photo, the wildlife in Grand County can pose a serious risk to hikers and bikers. When provoked, an animal attack can be deadly, both to you and the animal, so if you’re lucky enough to spot one, please observe from a distance!

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Here are a few tips for hikers who want to avoid hostile animal encounters in the wild.

  1. Stick to the trail. This will not only keep you from getting lost, it also preserves the natural ecosystem and prevents you from waltzing into an animal’s territory.
  2. Let them know you’re coming. Now is not the time for stealth-hiking. Converse with your hiking buddies and make a little noise. That doesn’t mean you have to shout! Lots of animals have acute hearing, and your ordinary hiking sounds will prevent you from accidentally sneaking up on a mama bear.
  3. DO NOT THROW FOOD. You see signs everywhere saying “pack in/pack out” and that means don’t feed the wildlife. This trains animals to become dependent on human litter, which we definitely don’t want. Yes, that includes your apple core. We know, it’s natural, but we don’t care. Don’t be that guy!

So, what to do if you accidentally cross paths with a potentially dangerous animal? If avoidance doesn’t work, your next steps can save your life.

Moose: These guys can be unpredictable, and are perhaps the most dangerous of encounters you may have. They’re enormous, and faster than you. If you see a moose, wait patiently for it to move along, or slowly retreat the other way. If the moose appears agitated (ears back, lips smacking) it’s time to retreat. Get between two trees and wait for the moose to leave. If he charges, RUN. DO NOT STAND YOUR GROUND. More information on moose encounters here.

Bears: You may notice that locals differ in opinion on what to do if you encounter a bear. Most encounters with our county’s black bears will be peaceful and non-aggressive. Still, it’s best to avoid contact to prevent an attack. If you see them from afar, make some noise to alert them to your presence so they can retreat. Respect  its space, and always give the bear an escape route. If the route isn’t clear, as a last resort you can try to “move” the bear by “getting big,” that is, lifting your jacket over your head and demanding that the bear “GET OUT OF HERE.”  If the bear is acting aggressively (say, a mama bear defending her cubs), listen to her message. You’re too close and she wants you to leave, so the polite thing to do is comply. More information on bear encounters here.

Lions: If you see a mountain lion, she has already seen you (so they say). Take this encounter very seriously. It’s time to create some distance, backing away while facing the lion. “Get big” with your jacket, and speak slowly, firmly and loudly to let this predator know that you’re a big guy too. If the lion lunges, fight back by any means possible. Protect your neck and throat, and use whatever tools you have on hand to fend off the lion. More information on lion encounters here.

Now, hopefully we haven’t scared you! Animal encounters are rare, but it’s best to be prepared just in case. Sometimes on a quiet evening, you get the chance to see a fox or an elk walk through your back yard, and there’s truly nothing better than watching them from a distance. 

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We hope to see you soon! If you are planning a summer hiking vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

High Country 101: Your Safety Over 9000 Feet

Nothing ruins a vacation faster than one of your group becoming afflicted with a very preventable ailment, especially when it happens right at the beginning of the trip! The rules are a little different above 9,000 feet, so we’ve compiled a list to help you make the most of your mountain getaway.

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  1. First things First: Before you venture up the mountain pass, do your body a favor and educate yourself on altitude sickness, an annoying and potentially serious ailment that can put a serious damper on your stay. As you ascend to higher altitudes, the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. You may find yourself short of breath, nauseated, or unusually fatigued.

To avoid altitude sickness, High Country Healthcare recommends the following:

  • Increase fluid intake
  • Decrease salt intake
  • Moderate your physical activity
  • Eat high-carbohydrate, low-fat meals
  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake

If you notice a wet cough, or that any of your symptoms (headache, nausea) are not getting better, seek medical attention immediately. More information from the CDC.

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  1. Take The Sun Seriously: Sunscreen and Sunglasses. Winter, summer, clouds or clear skies, protect your skin and eyes from damaging injury. You are at an increased risk of sunburn and injury when at high altitude. UV rays are more intense up here than they are at sea level, so make sure to protect yourself. Wear a hat that shades your face, ears and neck, and consider sun-protectant clothing.

Word of the day: Reapply! Make sure to consistently reapply sunscreen while you’re outside.  More information on sun care from the CDC.

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  1. Be Smart About Storms: While beautiful, mountain storms can be deadly, and it’s a myth that lightning never strikes the same place twice. From 2005-2014, Colorado had the third-most lightning strike fatalities of any state. Lightning is no joke, and we are right in the middle of the height of lightning season. More than 70% of all fatal lightning strikes occur between June and August.

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Before you hike, check the forecast and locations of shelters. If you can’t complete a hike before the storm, reschedule for another day.

If you’re already on the mountain and you notice a storm rolling in, do not wait until it’s raining to find shelter. Lightning can be present without rain! Find shelter, avoid open areas, and do not place yourself under the tallest object. If you’re in a group, spread out and run back to shelter or your vehicle. For more lightning safety tips, check out the National Weather Service Lightning Safety Page.

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Thanks for reading! With a little knowledge and preparation, we know you’ll love your Winter Park trip. See you soon! If you are planning a summer hiking vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park . 

Wild About Flowers

We had a late start to our summer here in Winter Park, and May was particularly rainy at 3.74 inches (average May rainfall is 2.15 inches). Excess rain presents a dilemma in the early days of the season. On one hand, you have to be conscious of such things as lightning, and you must schedule your hikes with safety (and proper gear) in mind.

On the other hand, an abundance of rain has one the most beautiful results imaginable: a stunning array of wildflowers decorating the mountain landscape.

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When we think of wildlife, it’s easy to gravitate toward animals. We stop sometimes to snap a photo of a moose or a fox, but in wildflowers we find a more subtle beauty, a quiet artistry that surrounds us, and doesn’t run away when we stop to take a picture.

We’ve been celebrating this year’s abundance with pictures on Instagram and Facebook, and this week we finally decided to take a hike with the sole purpose of photographing some flowers. These can be spotted all over the valley, though this particular set of photographs was taken at the top of Rollins Pass (if you decide to go there, make sure you have a four-wheel drive vehicle!).

Can you guess the names of each of these flowers? Answers below!

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(Special thanks to Wildflowers of Colorado for helping us research each flower)

  1. Moss Campion Plants (Silene acaulis)
  2. Leafy Cinquefoil (drymocallis fissa)
  3. Alpine Kittentail Flowers (besseya alpine)
  4. Alpine Daisy Flowers (aster alpinus)
  5. Alpine Mertensia Flowers (mertensia alpine)
  6. Bistort Flowers (polygonum bistortoides)

There are some truly fantastic hikes out there, and we absolutely encourage you to go out and snap some of your own photos. That said, remember to teach children not to pick them and to keep pets from trampling them! It’s important to stay on the trail to maintain the delicate ecosystem balance, and to keep our wildflowers coming back every year.

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If you are planning a summer hiking vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park.

Mountain Biking Beginner Tips From Winter Park, CO

Mountain Biking Winter Park

Are you ready to fall in love?

Mountain Biking Basics Part 2:
Building Your Skills

Mountain biking can seem pretty intimidating to the uninitiated, but if you take your time and build your skills, you might just find yourself falling in love with this rapidly growing sport.

This article shares some helpful tips that I found valuable when I was learning to mountain bike, and should help you get on the fast track to exploring the many trails in and around Winter Park, Mountain Bike Capital USA.

  1. Rent a good bike.
    Having the right type of mountain bike can drastically improve your confidence on the trail.  Good bike rental stores will offer a range of mountain bikes and will help you choose the right bike, adjust the suspension to your body weight, and fit the bike for your height.   Epic Mountain Sports in Winter Park, rents front and full suspensions bikes from $32 – $40 for a full day (save an additional 20% as a guest of Winter Park Lodging Company).
  2. best bike trails in colorado

    Share the experience with your best friend

    Start mellow.
    If it has been a while since you last rode a bicycle, you’ll need to give your body a little time to remember how to balance and maneuver.   Spend some time riding on a flat, easy trail to get a feel for the bike.  Practice some starting and stopping, shift your gears up and down, and weave left and right to practice turning.

  3. Look ahead
    It sounds obvious but many beginner mountain bikers will often look at the ground right in front of their front wheel, or worse yet, get fixated on the object that they are trying to avoid (like a tree or rock) instead of the path they want to take.   Just like in skiing, our bodies will tend to follow our line of vision, so focus your eyes on the trail about 15-20 feet ahead of your front wheel to navigate a clean path through obstacles.
  4. Gear Down & Lean Forward On Uphills
    When approaching an uphill climb, shift to a lower gear before you get to the hill so that your legs are spinning nicely when you start your ascent.  Stay seated, lean forward and pedal, pedal, pedal up the hill –  you’ll be amazed at what you can climb if you just keep pedaling.
  5. Shift Weight Back On Downhills
    When riding downhill, you want to stand up off your seat and shift your weight backwards, so that you are slightly behind the saddle and less likely to get pitched forward on steep terrain.  Keep control of your speed by feathering your breaks (break, release, break, release) and try to stay relaxed, keeping your wrists and elbows soft to help absorb any bumps.     Many riders like to lower their saddle when riding a downhill trail.
  6. Break Before Corners
    Mountain bike trails tend to be quite winding with lots of twists and turns.  If you are going down a twisty trail, try to break before you enter the corner then gently release during the turn

    Colorado mountian biking for families and kids

    Winter Park has trails for all ability levels

    to check your speed and avoid skidding.   As you gain confidence and balance, you’ll naturally start to lean into the turn with the bike which will help you flow through the turn.

  7. One Finger Only
    If your breaks and handlebars are set up to allow you to do so, try using just your index fingers to apply the breaks.  Using just one finger allows you to keep the rest of your mitts on the handlebars, giving you greater control and grip when riding uneven terrain or obstacles.
  8. Know Before You Go
    Ask a local mountain bike shop for advice on which trails are suitable for beginner mountain bikers and get a trail map before you head out on the trail.  Trails will often splinter into many other trails, so check your map at trail junctions if you are unsure.  While smart phone Apps are definitely useful tools for planning your day, be aware that cell phone service can be often diminished in ‘the backwoods’, so always have a paper trail map as back up in your pack.
  9. Pack For Success
    Wear a backpack with plenty of water, snacks and supplies with you so that you are prepared for every eventuality.
     Click here to see our article on what to bring with you on the trail.
  10. Have fun!
    Take plenty of breaks to take in the views, celebrate your accomplishments and share the adventure with like-minded friends.

Tune in next month for our last installment of  Mountain Biking Basics: Best Beginner/Intermediate Trails In Winter Park

If you are planning a summer mountain biking vacation in Colorado, click here take a peek at our 140+ modern vacation rentals in Winter Park, Mountain Bike Capital USA.