By Steve Graham
When you hit the Colorado backcountry, terrestrial radio signals can’t make it over all that mountain terrain. And accessing your Internet streaming services will put the spotty in Spotify.
Thankfully there are plenty of podcasts to fill your ears and brain with news, stories, trivia, jokes and much more. And most are free. It’s a great way to help pass the time while driving, camping or hiking (but only in one earbud when you’re on the trail — stay aware of your surroundings).
The world’s most popular podcasts are news digests, public radio shows, comic interviews and an audio reality show recorded on a fake Martian landscape in Hawaii. But there are also several hidden podcast gems about our great state. Here are some of our favorites. Happy listening.
How better to start a podcast list than with the chatty audio version of a state welcome center. Tyler Goudeau offers tips and advice on being safe, having fun and saving money while enjoying Colorado’s varied outdoor pursuits. He posted 17 episodes last year, including how to plan a weekend in Aspen for less than $100, how to climb your first 14er, and interviews with experts on rock climbing, kayaking and fly fishing. He has only posted one episode so far this year, a primer on the best deals for ski passes for next season, but we hope to see some more new content this year as summer heats up.
Miles Barger is officially a visual information specialist at Colorado’s most popular national park (and the nation’s fourth most visited, according to National Geographic). But Barger is no slouch in the audio department. He hosts a wonderfully informative and entertaining podcast about all aspects of the park. He posted 10 seasonal episodes between June and October of last year, closing with a great chat with a climbing ranger about the famed keyhole route up Longs Peak. He also chatted about elk, landscape ecology, the role of park volunteers, historic structures in the park and much more. We look forward to a second season this year.
This show title might remind you of NPR’s Morning Edition, and that’s no accident. A local NPR affiliate, KUNC, produces this show with a similar mix of serious news, feature stories and arts. A recent episode opened with updates on legalizing hemp and moving Interior Department offices to the Western states, but also included a profile of a Denver guitar-building shop, a movie review and a preview of a planned new Denver music venue. I appreciate some of the in-depth reporting but also enjoy the wide mix of coverage in each weekly episode. In about 30 minutes a week, you can learn about a wide range of Colorado characters and places.
On the other hand, you could spend almost two hours learning about one Colorado man — Douglas Bruce. Colorado Public Radio produced a gripping and enlightening three-part audio documentary about the man who brought us the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, which severely restricts the ability of state and local officials to raise taxes. Notably, this mini-series is not an ongoing podcast, but it is essential listening for anyone who wants to understand Colorado politics. Even if you lived in Colorado through the TABOR debate, the history is worth reviewing, and you’ll probably learn something new.
Though unrelated to that other TABOR, entrepreneur and chamber of commerce leader Dave Tabor hosts a business podcast that is really a local version of NPR’s “How I Built This.” Tabor is an excellent and personable interviewer, and he talks to business leaders all over Colorado about how they built their companies and how they maintain their brands. Highlights from recent months include concert promoter Chuck Morris, Bobo’s Oat Bars founder Beryl Stafford and that white-haired furniture peddler with the tigers, Jake Jabs.
Of course we have a soft spot for this podcast because we also like to talk about beer, and we love Golden. But this show is about more than beer. These are interesting live lectures and presentations from the Windy Saddle Café in Golden, recorded and posted online for free. Local craft beer is on tap for each event, and the podcast typically opens with the brewer discussing the evening’s selection. But the rest of the podcast can be about anything from industrial lasers to old-time Colorado cowboy music. If you enjoy book talks at the Tattered Cover or science lectures at your local university, you will love Golden Beer Talks — and you might even learn about some local craft beer.
Even if you have only lived in Colorado for a few years, you know Denver is growing and evolving very quickly. This fantastic show gives you history and context for the churn. And it serves as an interesting travelogue as you walk, run or drive through the metro area. For example, you can learn about Mayor Benjamin Stapleton and his Ku Klux Klan ties while you jog through his namesake neighborhood. And fans of long-form journalism will be hooked on “Unclear Danger,” their current season-long dive into the history of Rocky Flats, which is full of in-depth research and expert interviews.
- Steve Graham, a former newspaper editor and reporter, writes from Fort Collins.