Colorado City Could be Site of First Downhill Skateboarding Park in U.S. | Westword

Downhill Skateboarding Community in Golden Proposes a Park for Newbies

The only one in North America is in Canada.
Downhill skateboarding is growing in popularity, and a proposed park devoted to the sport would be the first of its kind in the U.S.
Downhill skateboarding is growing in popularity, and a proposed park devoted to the sport would be the first of its kind in the U.S. Getty Images
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Search YouTube for videos of downhill skateboarding, and you’ll see a sport that’s akin to skiing, but on a longboard and minus the snow. Skaters drift through turns and accelerate to speeds over 50 mph while traveling down winding mountain roads.

But the sport isn’t all about going the fastest or tackling the biggest hills: It’s also about achieving a sense of flow, or kinetic meditation — losing oneself in the moment and feeling, again, the childlike wonder of play. At least that’s how people in Colorado’s downhill skateboarding community describe it.

“In basically every sport that people pour their hearts into, what people love about it is that they can take themselves out of the rest of the world and really focus on the moment,” says Benjamin Euresti, a downhill skateboarder from Greeley. “The biggest thing is just another way of entering that moving meditation and another way of expressing yourself through that floating feeling. I can't deny that I could go snowboarding and feel like I'm floating, but I also can’t afford the thousand-dollar lift ticket, season pass, and the $2,000 setup. I can afford my $800 skateboard and my helmet.”

Euresti and friend Gavin Johns discovered downhilling about three years ago, after being board athletes for years. Euresti accidentally slid his board — spinning it to the side and skidding to a stop — which is a common action in downhilling. When the two realized that people purposely do that down mountain hills and that Colorado has a large scene for the activity, they were hooked.

They traveled from Greeley to Boulder and Golden to find good hills and connect with the scene, training on roads with cars going as fast as they were. Though braking is a huge component of the sport and the community is stringent about safety, it wasn’t always easy to manage cars and learn at the same time.

Boulder resident Sam Dickerson agrees. Since elementary school, he’d used a skateboard to get around town and discovered downhill through others in Boulder. It’s a huge part of his life, because he also works for Comet Skateboards, a downhill skateboarding company.

“We teach an after-school program where we're focused on teaching kids how to skateboard for autonomous transportation,” he says. “I'm an advocate for youth education, and specifically when it comes to downhill…there are some inherent risks with riding in a road with traffic, and we don't really have a viable alternative.”

That could soon change if a downhill skateboard park comes to Golden as part of a renovation of the Ulysses Sports Complex, which already has a traditional skatepark.

Mike Wofsey, a Golden physicist and self-professed skate punk, started floating the idea a few months ago. He’s not a downhiller himself, but he loved the idea of adding downhill to Ulysses and reached out to Golden Parks and Recreation, as well as to local downhillers like Dickerson, Johns and Euresti.

There’s a makeshift track that downhillers often frequent behind Wofsey’s house, so he knows a bit about the sport despite being a more traditional skater. That’s where he ran into Euresti and mentioned the idea.

“My eyes just lit up, because I saw the possibilities of new riders being able to enter into the sport safely and even experienced riders having a safe place to throw beginner races and to do little events like that,” Euresti says.

Lookout Mountain is somewhat of a gathering place for the downhill community, but it isn’t very conducive to beginners, Johns explains, adding that he didn’t feel confident enough to try riding it safely for a while despite watching experienced riders tackle the hill. A downhill park would eliminate the risk of starting on Lookout Mountain and make the sport more accessible, particularly because it would be next to the existing skatepark at Ulysses Park on an undeveloped hill.

There is only one official downhill park in North America, the Kamloops Longboard Park in the Okanagan region of British Columbia in Canada. Built in 2014, the park has two runs and sits on over four acres. Dickerson spoke with one of the people who created Kamloops after connecting with him on Facebook, consulting with him about the best way to design such a park and how to navigate potential barriers.

“Let's develop a really good plan that, when we do go back to the city, we have an intelligent, thoughtful design that caters to everything,” Dickerson says. He’s worked with local governments in his role with Comet, so he knows that the park already has parking, shade and bathrooms, which might make the project more appealing to the city by keeping costs down. All it would need is a paved hill with turns and maybe some lighting.

Stacy Turner of Golden Parks and Recreation says that the department’s budget just passed in December, so there aren’t solid plans yet for the redevelopment of Ulysses Park, but there will be public engagement moving forward — and those interested in the downhill park are welcome to participate.

“It’s great that people have a special interest here in Golden, and they can go through our Parks and Recreation board, and...once they do that, we can pursue looking into things,” Turner says.

The City of Golden received $587,443 from the Youth Activities Funds Distribution after the sale of the Denver Broncos in August. Those funds must go to projects for children, and Turner says that, though there hasn’t been an official decision, the Ulysses development, including the addition of a downhill park, was discussed as a potential use of those funds. More information will be available in the new year, she adds.

“Right now the biggest thing that needs to happen is making awareness of what could be here,” Euresti says. “We're in a place where not too many people outside of skateboarding really care, so we need to make people care, and we need to get people involved.”

Downhill longboarders are always trying to show the general public that they’re respectful and don’t have the disruptive mentality of the typical skate punk. They won’t be found skating on structures other than roads or fighting with property owners about whether they can skate on their property. They know the survival of their support depends on not angering others.

“Street skaters, they're just gonna go until they can't anymore, which we will, too, but I'm not going to argue,” Johns says. “You may see a lot of videos with street skaters getting in arguments with folks and getting loud and possibly physical, but I've never seen any verbal arguments, definitely no voice-raising, and definitely no violence or anything like that. We do a good job of that, and we hold each other to it.”

They also hold each other to safety standards like wearing helmets, gloves, knee pads and spine protectors. They share resources about skating safely in roadways, such as going early in the morning when there’s less traffic, or using spotters on blind corners. Dickerson points out that children are less likely to think about those safety precautions or have friends with enough maturity to help implement them, making a downhill park without cars an even more exciting prospect.

People of all ages skate downhill. A childhood friend of Dickerson’s does it, and her father does, too. Euresti says it’s one of the most supportive outdoor scenes he’s experienced. People who downhill come to Golden from other states because it’s known as a great place for the sport.

Pillars of the community are well known; one, Roy Wolf, died this past summer in a skydiving accident. Euresti describes him as “this unicorn that everybody looked forward to seeing.” Euresti says Wolf famously always had an encouraging word to share, and he would like to see Wolf memorialized at the park if it comes to fruition.

Euresti adds that Wolf exemplified the joy so many downhillers feel.

“Once you do it enough, it kind of becomes second nature, and it's a very thrilling and calming experience at the same time,” Dickerson says. “The reason I still do it — and I've tried to make my career in skateboarding — is because it's just a wholly rejuvenating feeling to go out and play. I feel like a kid in the sandbox.”

These skateboarders hope more kids, and adults, in Golden will have the chance to be safely introduced to downhill longboarding.

“Downhill skateboarding has changed my life,” Johns says. “It's what I do for stress relief. If I'm feeling depressed, if I'm having a tough time, I'll go out there and get on the board. …The next generation of skaters, and whoever else, should have access to that.”

In the meantime, the crew will keep searching for slices of open pavement to carve while they wait to see what happens in Golden.
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