Local Life and Lore in Colorado Springs

From Chinook to Fourteeners to Virga, learn about local lingo and quirks in Colorado Springs, CO.

The Springs
What locals call Colorado Springs.

So Where Are the Springs?
There are many towns in Colorado that end in “Springs”: Glenwood, Steamboat, Pagosa and such. They all have hot springs. But Colorado Springs has no springs, hot or otherwise, and never did. Its 19th-century founder put “springs” in the name to attract tourists.

Chinook
Some winter night, the wind will begin howling around your house and you’ll think, “Brrrrrr.” Then you’ll step outside and realize the wind is almost balmy. That’s a Chinook wind, a blast of warm air that occurs on the eastern slopes of the Rockies in the dead of winter. The Chinook originates on the Pacific Coast and reminds you that spring will return, someday.

SPF
Yes, we speak SPF here. Springs residents are more than a mile closer to the sun than their sea-level dwelling friends, so they can get a sunburn in 30 minutes. Locals wear sunscreen most all the time. Local dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of 25 or higher on daily basis. It’s part of living at a high altitude.

Fourteeners
Colorado has more than 50 mountain peaks that are 14,000 feet and higher. Locals call them “fourteeners” and brag about how many they’ve climbed. The fourteener closest to the Springs is Pikes Peak. So bag your first fourteener by hiking up the Barr Trail. If your lungs aren’t acclimated to the thin air yet, drive the Pikes Peak Highway to the top or ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

Virga
No, it’s not a sign of the Zodiac. It’s a meteorology term for rain that doesn’t actually hit the ground. It’s so dry in the Springs that sometimes it rains and the moisture evaporates before it ever hits the ground. You’ll look up at clouds, see rain falling and then see a streak of water vapor above the ground. That’s virga.

CC and UCCS
Acronyms for Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. CC is an expensive private liberal arts college that contributes heavily to the city’s cultural scene. UCCS is a branch of the University of Colorado.

Green chile (or chile verde)
We’re not talking about chili -- that stuff with tomatoes, kidney beans and ground chuck. We’re talking about a green vegetable, roasted Pueblo or Anaheim chiles. Locals cook chiles into a stew with pork, onions and tomatoes or a sauce for enchiladas, burritos, chile rellenos or tamales. It’s a Southwestern thing.

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