Program keeping riders on boards

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— The end of winter means one thing for snowboarders like Jon Casson -- time to hit the streets.

As director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's snowboarding program, Casson understands how important it is for the athletes he coaches to stay on top of their board skills in the off-season by staying on top of skateboards.

"I started the summer skateboarding program three years ago as a good way to cross-train and keep the kids together and in shape," Casson said. "It builds such confidence in the kids if they can skate well and land a trick. It's also a direct crossover to snowboarding with the skills involved."

In the program's first year, Casson said he would host practice sessions once a week at the Howelsen Hill skateboard park and take field trips every other week to regional skateboard parks.

Because the interest in the program and the sport have grown, this summer, Casson has decided to forgo the sessions at Howelsen in favor of weekly trips.

"The kids can skate Howelsen any day," Casson said. "Why should they pay to learn to skate what's become only an adequate skateboard park? The Howelsen park gets crowded and played out, and that creates less interest in the sport."

Citing the inadequacies of Steamboat's park, Casson takes the program across the state, seeking concrete, all-weather, in-ground parks that have become the standard in Colorado mountain communities.

"Colorado ranks third in the country for the most public skateparks per capita, but since the original modular skatepark was built here, the otherwise booming industry has passed Steamboat by," Casson said.

Casson raises funds through the Steamboat Skate--board Park Alliance, which was formed to fund the 2004-05 refurbishing of the Howelsen park. He is narrowing his choices of designers to draft a plan for a new Steamboat skateboard park -- a move he hopes will persuade City Council members to set aside land to make the plans a reality.

As far as complaints about the graffiti at the Howelsen park, Casson only sees that as more fuel for his fire to get a new park.

"It's a two-way street -- the city sees the graffiti and thinks the kids don't respect it, then the kids look at their facility and feel disenfranchised, away in this dark corner of town, so there goes their respect for the facility, and the situation goes downhill," Casson said. "If we had a state-of-the-art facility put in a spot that highlights it that could be lit up at night, then people could be proud of it, and we'd have a different situation," Casson said.

Casson will wait until June 14 to begin the weekly SSWSC program trips, which he will cap at 12 youths a trip and charge $50 for each. A $45 fee applies for participants who are not already SSWSC members.

Parents can call Casson at 846-1599 for more information.


-- To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129 or email dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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