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Gimmie shelter

Matt Zalaznick
Jon Scharfencamp performs a grind at the Liberty Skatepark in Avon. Saturday was the grand opening on the park.
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Powder days on the slopes, every local skier and snowboarder acts like its their birthday. But a foot of snow really screws things up at the valley’s skateboard parks, all of which are outside and therefore, closed in the winter.

Powder Day? Heck, a little rain – or the caddis fly hatch – can ruin the day.

But Liberty Skateboard Park, which just opened in Avon, has a roof, heat, pool tables, TVs and most importantly, a bowl that’s getting rave reviews from valley skateboarders who say they now have a place to ride all year round.

“I’ve been living here for four years and I’m sick of driving to Denver every time I want to go skateboarding in the winter time,” says Quintin Wicks of Eagle-Vail. “It’s nice to have something in the backyard.”

Skateboarding has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, particularly among young adults and parents who say a skatepark is a relatively safe, healthy place for their kids to be.

A group of parents in Eagle-Vail were instrumental in a park opening in that neigbhorhood this summer.

“It sure beats going to the bars,” said Wicks, 26. “I’ll take skating over boozing any time.”

The park, located 281 Metcalf Road, is not a public park, which means it’s not free and helmets are required. Owner Valerie Stanton, who searched for months for a place to build Liberty Skateboard Park, says it will energize the valley.

“We’re very excited about how this wil transform the valley,” Stanton says. “It gives people a healthy alternative – it gets them out of the bar scene and creates a new, cutting-edge environment.”

A huge attraction is that Liberty Skateboard Park is open late, says Nik Smith, 27, who works at Splendido restaurant and Funksturz skate shop.

“I work three jobs so I don’t have time for snowboarding right now,” Smith says. “I have a couple of hours at night so I shoot over to Liberty Skateboard Park, spend a couple of hours there and relieve some tensions.”

Even in the summer, says Jay Lavis, there aren’t a lot of places in the valley to skate.

“I’ve been here 10 years and I’ve already been harassed by the cops a ton for street skating,” says Lavis, 29. “I’m an old guy to be treated like a 16-year-old. I have to go skate at midnight – it’s the only time you’re not going to get arrested.”

Aside from Eagle-Vail, a park is set up every summer by the Vail Recreation District on the top level of the Lionshead parking garage. There’s also a skate park about an hour-and-a-half away in El Jebel.

Therefore, Lavis says, he hopes local skaters will support Liberty Skateboard Park, which he helped build.

“To me it’s like a church,” Lavis says. “It’s a totally cool place where everyone respects each other. This is serious skateboaridng on a big-time level.”

And skaters are not the only people intersted in Liberty’s longevity. Katie Hauck, a valley real estate broker, says the park is on her list of local amenities she tells prospective homebuyers about.

“I support it 100 percent,” Hauck says. “I’ve been up there twice, because I like to see what’s going in town so I can recommend it to people buying property.”

But it’s not only parents with kids who are interested in the park, Hauck says.

“It’s for all ages, really,” she says. “I’m 40 and I enjoy going up there to meet people – there are people up there who are even older than I am.”

Rick Colomitz, 31, a waiter, says there’s a “good vibe” at the park, where older, more experienced skaters are willing to help out younger, less skilled riders. In other words, he says, there’s no generation gap at Liberty Skateboard Park.

“I love it,” Colomitz says. “I think it’s a great asset to the community. It gives everybody an alternative to the limited activities in the winter time.

“It’s a popular sport,” he adds, “and there’s definitely a niche for it.”

The park is unique, Colomitz says.

“I’ve never seen a facility like it,” he says. “There’s quality construction, and lot of nice lines for skateboarders to try out. You can really progress.”

Aside from the pool tables and Foozball tables, sometimes there’s even a live band playing a few tunes while the skaters ride.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing,” Smith says. “There’s nothing like it around here. It’s a chance to keep all of us skating all winter long.”

“I’ve been all over the U.S. skateboarding,” Wicks adds. “They’ve made great use of the space they have. It’s a very nice wooden bowl, it’s well-constructed and it’s very safe.”

Liberty Skateboard Park is an energetic place for folks with a lot of energy, Stanton says.

“We want to get people off the streets so they don’t get caught skating and get ticketed,” Stanton says. “We also wanted to create an environment for extreme sports addicts that go skiing and snowboarding during the day and skating at night.”

In providing places for skateboarders to skate, town and neighborhoods have to realize skaters need changing terrain, something they’ll get a Liberty Skateboard Park, Stanton says.

“Skateborading is an activity that breaks down walls and crashes through barriers of race, nationality and religion,” Stanton says. “Skateboarding brings people togther.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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