Vail’s new skate park up and on the grind
VAIL — By now you may have heard the kick and pop of skateboards in the Lionshead Village parking structure.
It’s a beautiful sound, especially for those who have seen the park through from design to grind. Located inside the structure in space between parking areas which was previously unused, the skate park was conceived by local high school student Cameron Chaney and brought before the council in 2015. Construction was undertaken by California Skate parks for a cost of $1.6 million and wrapped up this spring.
The Vail Recreation District started giving lessons there last week, giving skaters the first official sign that the park was indeed ready to ride. Of course, skaters have been pushing and pumping through the park for weeks now.
“It’s like a house,” said Chad Young with the Vail Recreation District, who oversees the skateboard clinics. “There’s no certificate of occupancy yet, but the structure’s up and you can walk through the front door.”
A true opening ceremony, in which the park will honor the late Zeke Pierce with an official naming, is planned for later this summer.
Lifelong skateboarder CJ Poulin gives lessons for the recreation district, with occasional help from longtime local Dave Pleshaw.
Pleshaw said the new park is a lot different than other skate parks in the area.
“It has more stairs, rails and street aspects that a lot of other parks don’t have,” Pleshaw said. “For the space that they gave us, they made it work. They made a fun park where levels of all types can come here and enjoy skateboarding.”
Poulin called the park a street-league course design, like you might find at competitive events such as X Games or the Dew Tour.
“That’s all the rage right now, in terms of skate parks and the progression of skateboarding” he said. “So basically what we’re going to see, in Vail, is skaters from all over are going to want to come and see it, and see the street league style features. These are features that really will improve individual skateboarding from beginners to experts alike.”
‘SEEING WHAT IT REALLY IS’
Visiting Colorado from New Hampshire, Alex Heath came to Vail on Friday to check out the new park.
“It’s a unique park,” he said. “Kind of tucked away. I’m not surprised Vail did it — it’s cool to see that Colorado is investing in kids the proper way. In New England, we have a problem where they don’t see it as an improvement in the community, they think that we’re just a bunch of punks. Out here, they’re seeing what it really is.”
Woodward at Copper skateboard instructor Ryan Carnell brought 16 young skateboarders from all around the country to the skate park last week. He said the park was unlike he had imagined.
“I didn’t realize it was literally between parking garages like this,” he said. “It’s crazy, really cool use of the space.”
Carnell said Colorado Skateboards owner Rob Bak suggested he check out the new park. CJ Poulin said it has been refreshing to see guys like Bak skating the park.
“The level of skating I’ve seen here, since this park opened, has been awesome,” Poulin said.
SKATEBOARD CLUB VAIL?
Poulin envisions a day where there is a Vail skateboarding club not unlike Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, which manages events in the Vail skate park.
“If we as the local skateboarding community want to have any say in the events that happen at our skate park, then it will be absolutely necessary for us to start our own Vail skate club,” Poulin said.
For now, that skate club is just Poulin and Pleshaw showing kids how to skateboard.
“We show the fundamentals, and we’ll get you going from point A to point B safely,” he said.
“The scene at the Vail park is skaters encouraging each other, and we’re pretty proud of that,” Poulin said. “A beginner and an expert can be skating the same park at the same time in Vail, and having the same amount of fun. If the pro is trying to air out of the extension, and all the beginner is trying to do is pump through the park without stopping, they’ll both be encouraging each other.”
Pleshaw said it’s been rewarding to see kids pick up the sport.
“I’ve been skating for over 30 years and I’m still learning new things,” Pleshaw said. “It’s cool to see kids in here learning new things as well. You drive past a baseball field, it’s being used by teams for a couple hours a day. You come by this skate park and there’s always somebody here, morning to night.”
As a final reason to visit the Vail skate park, Poulin said skiers and snowboarders will appreciate the flowing design come next season.
“If you come pump around for an hour each day, you’ll give those same snowboarding muscles a great workout,” Poulin said. “You’ll go into next season feeling like you never got off the snow.”
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Lindsey Vonn no longer has a home in Vail, but a big piece of her heart will always remain here.