The longer days and higher temperatures have put some spring back into your step, but maybe you've noticed that some of your outdoor skills got a little rusty over the winter. In that case, you might need a refresher course as much as that dusty bike in your garage needs some attention before you take it back out on the trails. Student or not, here's your chance to become one by learning from this area's backcountry guides, culinary experts, mountain-bike masters and more. Ever gone backpacking with a leased llama or tried to bunny hop a log instead of dismounting your bike? Wondering what to do with those Palisade peaches you purchase this summer at the farmer's market or how to grill the perfect burger? Ponder no further. With Vail Mountain Bike Camps, Colorado Mountain College, Walking Mountains Science School and many other outdoor education venues available, your opportunities are all right here. Edwards-based Paragon Guides, for instance, offers workshops to teach backpackers how to handle and lease llamas. Beyond being really cool creatures, llamas can add a new dimension to your backpacking experience by accompanying you into the great outdoors. And they can help you carry that extra fly rod or the bottle of wine that you might otherwise leave home. "Llama trekking is a wonderful opportunity to get up close and learn about these quiet and gentle pack animals," said Paragon Field Director Donny Shefchik. "And a llama can become a backcountry companion who may show you something about itself, or possibly about yourself, in the process."All good reasons - in addition to the obvious reduction in pack weight for hikers and campers. The good news is that the Paragon Guides llama leasing program isn't the only program in the Vail area that can give outdoors-lovers the chance to try something new or to hone their skills. With so many educational opportunities available this summer in the Vail Valley, summertime's no excuse for letting your mind - or body - turn to mush. This shortlist is meant to be a know-how starting point for your summer adventures in Vail ... and beyond. Bunny hop a log.What: Vail Mountain Bike Camps.Where: Vail.When:Camps running from mid-June through August.Who: Kids (ages 7-13), juniors (ages 11-15) and adults of all ages.Cost: Varies based on camp type and group size; example: $105 for a three-day kids camp; $60 per person for a three-hour group skills workshop followed by a ride with coaching, minimum of six people. Why do it: Stay upright this summer and save some skin while flying over roots, rocks and other natural obstacles. All kids' camps meet at Golden Peak, but adult private or group lessons can meet at the location of your choice. Vail Mountain Bike Camps teach all ages to progress in a fun, safe manner, and race academy camps are offered for juniors ready to step up their speed. Contact: www.vailmountainbikecamps.com; email@example.com; 970-470-3431.Lead a llama.What: Introduction to Llamas clinics.Where: Paragon Guides Backcountry Center at Arrowhead Resort.When:June 16, 10 a.m.-noon; June 30, 1-3 p.m. Who: Anyone interested in llamas, llama trekking and the Paragon Guides llama leasing program.Cost: Free clinic, followed by a $50 orientation class to lease a llama.Why do it: Get in touch with a kind creature that can keep you company in the backcountry and help you carry your gear. These introductory llama clinics run by Paragon Guides are designed to familiarize backpackers with llamas and lead into their llama orientation class. Those interested in the llama leasing program will be required to attend the more instructional orientation class prior to leasing a llama. The three- to four-hour orientation class costs $100, or $50 for those who already attended the free introductory clinic. Contact: www.paragonguides.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 970-926-5299.Catch a trout in a day.What: Minturn Anglers fly-fishing lessons and guided trips.Where: Minturn, Vail Village and way beyond.When: Summer lessons from Tuesday through September; year-round guided trips.Who: All ages.Cost: Guided trips start at $285; daily lessons are free.Why do it: Casting a fly rod may be artistic, but it's not necessarily intuitive. With expert instruction, you're likely to get hooked. Minturn Anglers offers free daily lessons from 8 a.m. to noon at the Minturn Anglers Solaris location in Vail Village, and guided services range from half-day walk and wade instructional ventures to fly-fishing trips including horseback, heli fishing, multi-day floats and more. Contact: www.minturnanglers.com; email@example.com; 970-827-9500.Cartwheel a kayak.What: Kayaking clinics, playboating sessions and stand-up paddleboarding lessons.Where: The Alpine Quest Sports' Alpine Kayak School, Edwards or Glenwood Springs store locations; venues throughout the valley.When:Classes run from now to Oct. 30 each; Alpine Quest Sports is open year-round.Who: Anyone who wants to get out on the river, ages 11 and older.Cost: Varies based on type of class and number in group; example: for a one-person, two-day beginner kayaking clinic costs $175.Why do it: Learn to flip a kayak like the pros you've watched at the summer Teva Games, or just try something new. In addition to their kayaking classes for all levels, Alpine Kayak School offers a variety of opportunities throughout the summer ranging from kayaking roll clinics at the Avon Recreation Center, to playboating sessions at the Vail Whitewater Park, to stand-up paddleboarding demos at Nottingham Lake. Contact: www.alpinequestsports.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 970-926-3867.Read the night sky.What: Eagle Valley Astronomical Society meetings.Where: Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon.When: Second Thursday of each month, year-round, 7:30-9 p.m.Who: Star-gazers of all ages.Cost: Free.Why do it: The Eagle Valley Astronomical Society's public observing nights will help you move beyond identifying the Big Dipper and make the backcountry's night sky infinitely more entertaining. John Briggs, astronomer in residence at the private HUT Observatory in Eagle, leads this newly formed group of amateur astronomers made up of adults and children alike. Learn about features in space using telescopes and interpreting the night sky. Briggs also organizes workshops in locations from California to Vermont. Contact: www.walkingmountains.org; email@example.com; 970-827-9725.Become river and raft savvy.What: Learn the science behind river dynamics and rafting.Where: Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon.When: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.Who: Geared towards adults, but all ages welcome.Cost: Free.Why do it: Learn more about water, the substance that's more necessary to our existence than any other. How does water shape the landscape of the Eagle Valley, and how can we read the water as it flows through this landscape? In this unique learning opportunity, Walking Mountains Science Center will explore this valley's water dynamics in conjunction with Lakota River Guides as part of its monthly "Science Behind" series. Participants in this class will be eligible for a $75 full-day rafting trip with Lakota valid through June 15, a portion of which will be donated to Walking Mountains. Contact: www.walkingmountains.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; 970-827-9725.Take the perfect shot.What: Go on a photo safari.Where: Vail Nature Center.When:Mondays, 8 a.m.-noon, June 18-Aug. 28.Who: Ages 16 and older.Cost: TBA; check with the Vail Nature Center.Why do it: You want to capture more than blurred memories of your epic moments in the outdoors. Go on a photo safari with master photographer Dennis Jones, and spend the morning exploring the beauty of the Vail Valley with your camera - digital, old-school and even Polaroids welcome. You'll learn easy techniques and tricks that will immediately improve your photography. Reservations required. Contact: www.vailrec.com/nature.cfm; email@example.com; 970-479-2291.Get lost, and find your way home.What: Colorado Mountain College's Orienteering Course.Where: Colorado Mountain College, Edwards Campus.When: June and July evening and weekend class options.Who: Adults older than 17.Cost: Tuition ranges from $56 plus fees to $299 plus fees, based on in-district, in-state or out-of-state classification; special visitor and senior rates are available.Why do it: Maybe you're worried that the GPS in your car will render you useless in the outdoors. In this class, taught by J.P. O'Brien, your wilderness travel potential will be expanded by learning the proper use of maps, compass and other tools. The class includes two one-day field trips for each section of the class. If you complete the course, then you'll earn one college credit and the right to be a confident map-keeper on your future hut trips. Contact: www.coloradomtn.edu/edwards; 970.569.2900.Race uphill like a pro.What: Uphill Power Cycling Clinic.Where: The Vitality Center located within the Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa.When: Mondays and Wednesdays, June 4-27, 5:30 to 7 p.m.Who: Anyone comfortable riding a road bike open to vehicular traffic.Cost: $200 for members, $300 for non-members.Why do it: You're tired of feeling your lungs and legs burn when you ride up Vail Pass, and you want to smoke your friends at this summer's Triple-Bypass, Mount Evans Hill Climb or Copper Triangle. Join Abby Ruby, senior Carmichael Training Systems coach, as she takes you through workouts that will push you to the next level of your fitness. The program will be periodized, meaning that it builds upon each week in a scientifically proven effective manner as you gain strength through fun and challenging interval rides. Contact: www.vailvitalitycenter.com; 970-476-7721.Grill to thrill.What: Summer Cooking Classes.Where: Colorado Mountain College's Teaching Kitchen at Battle Mountain High School, Door 14.When: June through August, evening and weekend classes, 6-9 p.m.Who: Ages 17 and older; ages 14-16 may be accompanied by a parent also registered.Cost: $50 per class.Why do it: After all of this summer activity, you're bound to be hungry. Colorado Mountain College offers a variety of evening classes for those interested in the culinary arts through their continuing education program. Teachers include Tracy Miller, an avid home cook and great mentor, and Felicia Kalauhi, a pastry chef who works on skill development with cooking enthusiasts and professionals. Impress your friends at an upcoming cookout after taking the "Anything Burgers" class. Turn piles of Palisade peaches into grilled peach and goat cheese bruschetta with "The Perfect Peach" class, and take the "Summer in Greece" class to go on a culinary adventure; Baklava included. Contact: www.coloradomtn.edu/edwards.
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