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Northstar skate park opens for business

BAY KELLEY, Sierra Sun

To the tune of Black Sabbath and the Beastie Boys, skateboards, bikes and blades went streaking across the Sierra-Nevada sky line.

Skateboarders, in-line skaters and BMXers were all represented Saturday in Northstar at Tahoe’s first Vert Ramp Jam.

With a DJ, raffle and concessions, the Jam served as the official grand opening of Northstar’s Freestyle Park, located in the resort’s parking lot D.

With the park’s street course not yet built, the attention of the event was focussed on a miniature halfpipe measuring 32 feet wide and six feet tall (with two feet of vertical extension). For the more adventurous types, there was a 30-foot-wide and 11-feet-six-inch tall halfpipe.

Most of the event’s participants crowded onto the mini-ramp’s platforms, competing to get a chance to ride.

The attention of the non-participants, however, was focused mainly on the bigger ramp.

The ramp, designed by Eric Valenzuela, featured the skating of several professionals and a host of riders from surrounding areas.

“It’s a very nice vert ramp,” said Greg Neal, who traveled from Corte Madera for the park’s opening, “… very satisfactory. I love it.”

“I’ve skated ramps all over the world,” said Donna Vano, an in-line skater from South Lake Tahoe, “and I’ll tell you, Eric [Valenzuela] is the man. He builds the best ramps I’ve ever skated.”

Valenzuela, in addition to building Vano’s first ramp about 10 years ago, has traveled from Utah to Oregon and all over the Bay Area contributing designs 12 skateparks.

“It’s more like a hobby than work,” explains Valenzuela, who, living in South Lake Tahoe, has the pleasure of skating on the ramps he builds.

Local Professionals

Chad Shetler and Aaron Vincent, both living in Truckee, skate professionally for the Sessions team and, along with Andrew Miller and Noah Slaznik (who skates for Reef), were instrumental in the organization of the new park.

“This park’s a good thing,” said Shetler, “especially up here in the mountains where there aren’t a lot of places to skate.”

Shetler, who splits his time between skating and a full-time job doing construction, and Slaznik are the designers for the concrete park being poured at Truckee regional park.

The Truckee park, which will feature five bowls, is due to be opened sometime in September.

Between Vincent and Shetler, there is about 30 years of skating experience, and the two were fantastic on the new ramp.

Shetler sailed well over the heads of skaters who were waiting to drop in, while Vincent, with a broken wrist, fearlessly did the same, grinding, contorting and spinning the whole time.

Slaznick was unable to participate in the opening because of an injury.

“I’m amazed at how many vert skaters there are here,” explained Vincent, who watched as a host of locals took their respective turns; Shawn Pursel of Squaw Valley; Nathan Avila, Rafe Robinson and Ryan Baker of Truckee; Seth Nickles and Troy Wilkin of South Lake; Andrew Eisenmann of Tahoe City; Aaron Katz of Incline Village; Bo Stewart and many others.

“And we’re all close friends,” continued Vincent. “One of the things about skating that’s cool is seeing all your friends and watching them get better.”

The skaters were especially courteous to one another, cheerfully acknowledging a good trick and pounding their boards against the ramp’s metal coping after great tricks.

For Beginners

Both Vincent and Shetler emphasized to those just beginning at skating to “just have fun.”

“Skateboarding is one of the hardest sports to learn,” explained Vincent. “A lot of people quit because they can’t figure out tricks immediately.

“It’s one of those sports that you can’t learn right away. It’s good that way,” he concluded.

Park Information

The Freestyle Park is expected to remain open until late October. Admission costs $3 per day for Northstar residents and $5 for everyone else. The park will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m..

Helmets are mandatory and a parent’s signature is required for people under 18. Those who ride the ramps must sign a waiver.

“We are very happy that Northstar let us go along with this project,” said Miller, the head of alternative activities and events at the resort. “Everyone is really stoked, and we’ve gotten great support from local skaters and sponsors who want to see more facilities like this available to the kids.”


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