Mom-approved sport on a roll in Vail Valley |

Mom-approved sport on a roll in Vail Valley

Melanie Wong
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyChris Kerr, 13, jumps over eight stairs on his skateboard as his Vail Valley skateboard camp collegues and instructor watch at the Edwards skate park.

VAIL, Colorado – Vail Valley resident Quintin Wicks, 32, remembers when he used to get fined, chased and even wrestled to the ground – all in the name of skateboarding.

Today, the Minturn resident can ride whenever he wants amidst a crowd of other skateboarders, families and onlookers. As a kid, he remembers getting his first skateboard for Christmas and looking for places to skate with his friends.

“We went anywhere we could. It was really an outlaw sport back then,” he said, sitting at the Edwards skate park. “Now I have parents who want to pay me to give their kids lessons. If you told me that 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Wicks is among a crowd of all ages, with skateboards zooming by through the park’s various bowls, ramps, steps and rails. The air is filled with the slapping sound of boards hitting concrete.

Vail has had a temporary skate park on top of the Lionshead parking garage for years. The wooden ramps and boxes are set up and torn down each year by a skateboard park company, taking up almost 14,500 feet at the top of the garage.

Now the sport has spread down to Edwards, where skaters inaugurated the park’s newest feature a few weeks ago. The feature, a steep-sided bowl with a “cradle,” or bowl tipped sideways, is an advanced feature, meaning it gets fewer riders – but it doesn’t fail to draw onlookers when someone drops into it.

“There are a lot of steep spots and tall walls,” said skateboarder Eric DeValt, 20, who was checking out the new bowl. “I haven’t made it into the cradle yet, but it’s a really good feature. It’s really smooth.”

Wicks said the feature is pretty advanced, adding that it’s at the edge of his own abilities.

“But it’s something that the kids are fortunate to have and can grow into it,” he said. “I didn’t have something like that growing up, but if I did, you can bet I would have skated the heck out of it.”

Isaac Shaw, 11, visiting from Salt Lake City, Utah, dubbed the park “the best park I’ve been to.”

The new feature adds to the variety of the park, and might be like something you’d see in professional competitions, he said.

The parks attract quite a bit of the older crowd in addition to children and teenagers – people who quit riding when they were younger and have hurried to buy new boards as their kids have gotten into the sport.

Patrick O’Toole, 31, started skating at age 11 and never stopped. He now teaches the recreation district’s summer skate camps, and skates with his five-year-old son.

“What you do with the sport is totally up to you,” he said. “I’m still learning stuff. I try to do something new everyday.”

The skate camps have been growing in popularity, with kids of varying abilities attending.

“People aren’t just signing up their kids for soccer anymore,” he said.

For every veteran skater like O’Toole or Wicks, there are several kids like 9-year-old Tess Johnson, of Edwards, who is just picking up the sport.

One of the few girls at the park, she’s been skating for two years after her relatives bought her a board, she said, and has enjoyed learning new tricks and skills each time she hits the park.

Her goal for the week at skate camp is to improve at skating in the park’s bowl feature, and successfully do an ollie – a move where the rider jumps and pops the skateboard up into the air.

Proudly sporting a bright pink helmet, she said she’s undeterred at being outnumbered by boys at the park.

“I tell my (girl) friends they should try it. They say, ‘No! That’s boyish.’ I just shrug and say, ‘Suit yourself,'” Tess said.

What was once seen an almost criminal sport is now mom-approved. On weekends, parents line the sides of the park, watching their youngsters cruise the features.

Eagle resident Karen Brode, who was watching her 9-year-old son Josh skating the ramps, said she sees skateboarding as another sport just like soccer or baseball. Her son tried different team sports but enjoyed skateboarding, snowboarding and mountain biking more, she said.

“He takes lessons, and every time he comes down here, he learns something new. He wakes up and dreams about skateboarding,” she said.

Wicks said the infusion of kids and families interested in the sport has been great. The appeal of skateboarding is that it really can be for everyone, he said.

“It’s not about who’s good or who’s better, and everyone’s got a smile on their face,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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