Ticket to Ride

It's easy to pinpoint the suckiest public skateparks in Colorado: Just count the number of skaters who aren't at them. But even the best skaters don't agree on the best concrete rides. When Westword asked twenty locals to name the state's top ten parks -- based on design, layout and construction rather than factors such as size and location -- many of these hard-core skaters dithered for days, carefully weighing each park's attributes against its faults like philosophy students defending a thesis.

The older "vert dogs," who tend to prefer deep bowls and steep transitions (and who are also better at returning highly unscientific surveys), generally listed parks designed by Grindline and Team Pain as primo; the younger "street rats," who look for stairs, rails and ledges, gave high marks to Aurora's expansive course and a new street-style park in Fort Collins. But both camps can find something to love at the following skateparks, the ten best (in order) in Colorado.

1. Southside Park, Trinidad

Designed/built by Grindline in 2003, initial cost $250,000

Trinidad's skatepark is 14,000 square feet of fluidity. It begins small, like a winding creek, then descends into torrents of perfectly located hips and corners, finally discharging into a deep rectangular bowl. The few rails and other street obstacles around the decks seem almost like an afterthought, which makes you wonder why Seattle-based Grindline bothered with them at all. But the masterful placement of terrain in the trench, which allows skaters to pump from one end to the other, is enough to make this park a favorite among Colorado skaters.

2. Carbondale Skatepark

Designed/built by Grindline in 2004, initial cost $200,000

While Trinidad offers at least some learning curve, the difficulty levels at Carbondale's storied skatepark go straight from hard to really hard. The 13,000-square-foot labyrinth is filled with pockets, pump bumps and a huge concrete capsule known reverentially as "God's Nostril." Pool skaters love the tight, vertical transitions and endless lines; beginners and street skaters are SOL until the city finishes a 7,500-square-foot street-course addition. Granted, only about ten people in all of Colorado can skate this park effectively -- local pro Wrex Cook being the first three. But if you can conquer your fears at Carbondale, all other parks will be candyland.

3. Rio Grande Skatepark, Aspen

Designed/built by Team Pain in 2000, initial cost $450,000

Got your ass beat at Carbondale? Regain your chops at the Rio Grande Skatepark in nearby Aspen. Florida-based Team Pain was known primarily for its ramp courses until it smoothed out this concrete lovely that combines big and small bowls, a spine ramp, a snowboard-style jump and a ten-foot vert wall topped by pool coping. The 17,000-square-foot park ties together some great lines and fun obstacles -- although you may get snaked by one of the three preteen sons of tennis pro Chris Evert. Those kids are gnarly.

4. Fossil Creek, Fort Collins

Designed by Alltec Skateparks Inc. in 2004, initial cost $120,000

Street skaters, rejoice! Finally, your prayers for a real street-style park have been answered. If cities are truly concerned about the property damage that street skaters can inflict on businesses and outdoor plazas, then they need to build skateparks that mimic the exact obstacles you find on the street. Coloradan Tim Altic, founder of Alltec, stayed true to that mandate at the 12,000-square-foot Fossil Creek, where there's not a transition in sight -- just a straight-up combination of gaps, rails, manual pads and stairs of varying heights.

5. Wheel Park, Aurora

Designed by SITE Design Group in 2002, initial cost $300,000

SITE Design, an outfit out of Arizona, designs some of the best skateparks in the nation. It's also the only skater-operated company that consistently gets considered in bigger markets, because its principal, Michael McIntyre, is also a registered landscape architect. Like many of SITE's designs in the Phoenix area, this Aurora skatepark makes great use of space without seeming cramped. The street-course area is mellow, with well-placed ledges and rails, and the snake run and two bowls are fast, with some interesting lines; stairs are the only thing missing at the 20,000-square-foot park. Fair warning: Once school lets out, Wheel Park is inundated with little kids on Rollerblades and an assortment of teen hood-rats.

6. La Junta City Park, La Junta

Designed by SITE Design in 2003, initial cost $257,000

La Junta's 16,000-square-foot skatepark may be the most underrated one in Colorado; it's so far off the beaten path, many skaters haven't been there. But those who have praise the excellent nine-foot bowls that flow into a street course and what could be the state's best pyramid.

7. Baldridge Community Park, Montrose

Designed by Alltec in 1997, initial cost $300,000

When Baldridge Community Park opened seven years ago, the Montrose skatepark had skateboarding magazines chattering for months. Alltec's design brought together a slew of interesting obstacles, like the concrete doughnut and volcano, and connected them flawlessly in a 17,000-square-foot park. In the years since, the park has added a ten-foot deep bowl and a questionable street-course area. Even with all of the other heavy-hitter parks being laid down over the past few years, this Colorado original still ranks high.

8. Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder

Designed by SITE Design in 2000, initial cost $869,000

Engineers ran into trouble planning this 14,000-square-foot skatepark, when they discovered that the proposed location near Boulder Creek had a high water table that prevented them from putting the eight-foot clover bowls more than four feet into the ground. This meant that most of the park had to be built upward, significantly raising construction costs. But the result has plenty of hips and transfers to pop off, and two pyramids that are fun if you can get over their steepness. The lack of street obstacles doesn't seem to bother the deep-rooted Boulder locals, who are concerned mostly with haulin' ass and gettin' high.

9. The Denver Skatepark

Designed by the Architerra Group in 2001, initial cost $2.9 million

The Denver Skatepark is huge, with a great location in the middle of the city, and it's lit until 11 p.m. All that is good. But skaters have mixed feelings about this park. Some like the eleven-foot-deep "peanut bowl," but almost all bitch about the slick concrete, which makes for "ice capades" on dusty or cold days. Many also feel that the original street-course area lacks flow and contains many misplaced and unusable obstacles. And while the abundance of knee-high ledges is great, some are choppy and gnarled beyond recognition as a result of the decision not to cap them with angle iron. The 2003 extension of the street section, which expanded the park's total square footage to 60,000, added a few fun elements like flatbars and low curbs, but the banks and pyramids are far too steep and often unused except by dudes on mountain bikes. Nevertheless, this park is probably the most utilized patch of public land in Colorado.

10. Mountain View Park, Cañon City

Designed/built by Team Pain in 2002, initial cost $238,000

You just can't go wrong with Team Pain, which turned out this great 11,000-square-foot skatepark in Cañon City. The snake-run-style bowl course has a spine ramp and raised corners for quick slash grinds, and surrounding the bowl like a running track are well-spaced street elements, including rails, ledges and mellow pyramids.

Honorable Mention: Redstone Park, Highlands Ranch

Designed by Design Concepts in 2002, initial cost $750,000

Design Concepts got off to a shaky start with the skatepark community when it conceived the $500,000 Greenwood Village park, which was fraught with problems from the start. But the Lafayette architecture and planning firm earned some respect with its 26,000-square-foot Redstone Park in Highlands Ranch. While the street course leaves a little to be desired in design, it still does the job. Speed demons will love the long, wide snake run that dumps into a tall, fast bowl section. There's also a beginner area dubbed the "petri dish" for its circular shape and mellow transitions, where even experts can dink around and have fun.

Wack Attack: "The Cage" Skate Park, Broomfield

Designed by Play Environments LLC in 2000, initial cost $768,000

You'll find the worst concrete work in Colorado at the clover-shaped bowl in Broomfield. As if the two-inch-wide expansion seams lining the deck weren't treacherous enough, skaters are also exposed to patches of gouged-out concrete and inconsistent, wavy transitions that nearly bury the coping. For BMX bikers with twenty-inch wheels, this might be okay, but for skaters riding on 59-millimeter balls of urethane, the diagnosis is terminal. Even worse, this skatepark -- which calls itself "The Cage," after the fifteen-foot-tall fence that surrounds it -- would still suck even if the concrete construction (courtesy Tech Constructors Inc.) wasn't so shitty. Like all cities with bunk parks (Grand Junction, we're watching you, too) Broomfield would be wise to rip out this lawsuit-in-waiting and have it rebuilt by someone who knows what he's doing before poor little Johnny eats more teeth.

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Jared Jacang Maher

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