Skate Nation

Colorado's becoming a mecca for skateboarders. But for the best parks, you'd better head for the hills.

Tony Smith, a twenty-year-old skater who lives in Elizabeth, comes marching up the bike path between the playground and the softball field. He sets his backpack down on top of a series of stacked concrete ledges, the only obstacle kept from the skatepark's original design. After I was taken off the project, these concrete blocks were squished and malformed to accommodate prefabricated ramps. Smith sits on the tallest one like it's a bench and lights up a cigarette.

Five years after he took over, parks-and-rec director Joel Johnson says the city is pleased with the success of its skatepark. "I didn't have any experience in skateparks before, but I have two sons who skateboard," he says. When he came in his young boys had just started skating; he was worried that the custom design was too cramped and didn't leave enough options for novice skaters. So after checking out other skateparks around Denver, Johnson decided that a rectangular pad of concrete with some ramps was the best choice for Elizabeth. Plus he was able to get more square footage and do it all for under $100,000.

"This park sucks," Smith says. "They need some bigger stuff, like a half-pipe."

Mance overboard: Executing an invert at  Tim Altic's 
groundbreaking course in Crested Butte.
Eric Magnussen
Mance overboard: Executing an invert at Tim Altic's groundbreaking course in Crested Butte.
Concrete dreams: Grindline founder Mark Hubbard 
skates all his designs.
Adam Conway
Concrete dreams: Grindline founder Mark Hubbard skates all his designs.

Some of his buddies roll up in their cars and soon are riding back and forth between the ten ramps that bang like steel drums with every trick. "This park?" says seventeen-year-old Justin Vandenburg. "It's all right. I mean this stuff," he gives a disaffected nod toward a two-foot-high bank, "this is cheap stuff." Still, it's better than what skaters had before in Elizabeth, which was nothing. But it's not enough to keep Smith and his friends from traveling to Colorado's other amazing skateparks every chance they get.

People will drive across the country to reach Carbondale. People won't drive across the county to get here. Smith says that kids from nearby Castle Rock will occasionally drop by. "But," he adds, "they don't stay long."

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