An introduction to the best longboarding in Summit County
Build the ultimate pavement rig
Like skis and snowboards, longboards come in a slew of shapes and sizes for different styles of riding, and building a bomber rig doesn’t end with the deck itself. Longboarding is all about finding the right combination of wheels, bearings and trucks to match your style. Here’s a crash course on the gear essentials.
Board shape ($80 to $300-plus)
Directional — A board with a distinct nose and tail. Like on-snow counterparts, the board will always rider smoother and more responsively in one direction. It’s the preferred shape for downhilling, freeriding and cruising, and boards range from 2-4 feet long. Expect to pay anywhere from $80 for an entry-level complete (with trucks and wheels) to $300-plus for a high-level board alone.
Twin — A symmetrical board, with a nose and tail designed to be equally responsive. These are made for freestyle and technical riding. They’re typically a bit shorter than directional boards and cost the same amount.
Pin Tail — Also known as Penny boards, these miniature directional decks were the original longboard/skateboard hybrids in the ‘60s. It all started here, and while they aren’t the best for cruising long, roller-coaster rec paths (like the kind found in Summit County), they’re perfect for rolling around town. Complete models cost $40 to $100 and usually come in the gaudiest retro neon you’ve ever seen.
Top mount — The standard wheel mount, with trucks screwed directly onto the base of a flat board.
Drop deck — A funky, longboard-only design featuring a tiered board, with lower and upper platforms. Rather than rest over the trucks, your feet go directly beside them on the lower platform (the “drop.”) They’re expensive, and only recommended for downhillers.
Kick tail — These are for the skateboarders out there. The tail (and occasionally the nose) is slightly tapered for popping ollies and other tech tricks.
Soft — The board has plenty of give and play in the middle for carving massive turns. Some models even bend far enough to touch the pavement, making them dangerous as hell for bombing hills.
Medium — The Goldilocks of longboards, with just the right amount of flex to absorb bumps and crags. It’s prime for commuters and beginners with a bit of skating experience.
Hard — The most rigid board, made for anyone who likes immediate response and stability. It’s the go-to style for downhillers and mountain-town boarders.
Trucks ($30 to $70 per truck)
Trucks attach the wheels to the deck. Like their skateboard cousins, adjust longboard trucks by tightening or loosening a large screw running through two bushings.
Bushings ($10 for four)
Bushings are plastic inserts for trucks and come in hard or soft varieties. The harder the bushing, the more stable it is at high speeds. The softer, the more forgiving it is in corners. Play around with combinations to find the right mix.
Wheels ($30 to $105 for complete set)
Square — A standard longboard wheel. The edge that contacts the ground is squared off, providing plenty of grip in tight corners and at fast speeds.
Round — A standard skateboard-style wheel. The edge is rounded to help with sliding and cornering, making them a bit more forgiving for newcomers.
Center set — The symmetrical design used for skateboard and freestyle longboard wheels. Look for a width of 55 to 70 millimeters.
Offset — A slightly asymmetrical design. The wheel core sits close to the truck, while the rest of the wheel extends out beyond the board edge. These are made for downhilling and general riding. Wheel width ranges from 65 to 80 millimeters.
Bearings ($15 to $40)
Bearings make the wheels spin, simple enough. Most longboard bearings are rated on the ABEC scale: ABEC 3 for beginners, ABEC 5 for freeriding and boarders of just about any level, and ABEC 5-11 (or higher) for serious downhillers.
In the wide world of board sports, longboarding is sometimes considered a joke.
Maybe it gets a bad rap from a recent surge in popularity. About seven or eight years ago, longboards hit college campuses with a vengeance, and it’s easy to see why. They’re easier and more forgiving to ride than traditional skateboards, but they also seem cooler than a Schwinn roadie. Longboards find a perfect middle ground between street skating and simply walking, even if the vast majority of college students only rode them to commute across the quad.
Yet in Summit County, with more than 55 miles of paved recpath on everything from mellow river cruises to high-alpine passes, longboarding is more than a campus pastime. It’s a legitimate sport. There’s the occasional underground downhill race, and small groups of hardcore longboarders regularly meet up to bomb steep hills in Breck, or cruise Tenmile Canyon under moonlight.
For many, like Woodward Copper coach and veteran longboarder Giri Watts, Summit is a bona fide playground for serious longboarders. But it’s also a prime location for interested newcomers to pick up the basics, like simply learning how to ride safely on intimidating, mountainous terrain.
Like snowboarding or skiing, the best beginner longboard runs are on manicured recpaths. Those paths are often packed with bikers, joggers and anglers, especially in the thick of summer, and collisions are always a possibility.
But, they don’t have to be a certainty.
“It gives longboarders a bad name when there’s a perception we’re out of control,” says Watts, who always boards with at least a helmet and gloves for sliding turns. “If you don’t have the ability to stop, you really are out of control. You just have to know how to control the board. There are just so many variables on the recpaths.”
The most basic maneuver is the foot brake, and it’s just as straightforward as it sounds. If you start moving too quickly, drag the entire bottom of your pushing foot (not just the tip of the toe) along the ground, using the side of the board to stabilize the dragging foot. It takes a bit of practice to find your touch, but it’s a must for controlling your speed. Practice on a relatively flat grade before moving to steeper terrain.
With plenty of summer left to shred, Watts and a collection of local longboarders weighed in on their favorite Summit rides.
Blue River RecPath (Breckenridge to Frisco)
Sure, it’s crowded on weekends, and sure, you’ll have to push through sections, but few runs are better for learning — or simply cruising — than the Blue River recpath between Breckenridge and Frisco. It takes boarders nearly 6 miles on a gentle downhill grade, beginning at the southern end of Main Street before ending at Summit High School.
You can connect with the Frisco path from there, but the 1.5-mile section between SHS and Main Street Frisco includes a gnarly climb, and that’s hardly a longboarder’s idea of a good time. Then again, neither is skating uphill back to Breck, so take advantage of the Summit Stage stop at SHS and shuttle back to the start.
Ten Mile Rec Path (Copper Mountain to Frisco)
When people think about Summit longboarding, the Ten Mile Rec Path is the first route that comes to mind.
“Copper to Frisco is the big one, the obvious one,” says Mackenzie Camp, manager at The Grind skateshop in Silverthorne. Think of Ten Mile as the Bonanza of longboarding: Like the Peak 9 cruiser, it’s a fun and fast blue run, with only a tiny bit of skating in the first mile or two before the downhill begins. The path is also relatively straight and incredibly flowy for a mountain run — a blessing for beginners, a bore for veterans who like sliding and switchbacks.
Just be wary of several blind corners in the final four miles, and always look ahead for bikers and hikers. Similar to the Blue River path, it pops out by the final Summit Stage stop in Frisco. Some longboarders, including lay-down luger Slim Decamp, shuttles the path four to five times in a day.
East Vail Pass (Vail Pass to Copper Mountain)
At roughly 5.5 miles of pure downhill, the East Vail Pass ride is for experts only. But, if you have the chops, it’s one hell of a ride, filled with lightening-fast straightaways and nearly a dozen tight switchbacks. The path itself is also incredibly maintained, with hardly any of the potholes and pockmarks you’d expect on a high-alpine pass that’s covered in snow more than half of the year.
It reminds Camp of another steep downhill, the paved path from Silver Plume to Georgetown in Clear Creek County. Both take about 20-30 minutes from top to bottom, with steep enough grades to reach upwards of 30-35 miles per hour.
For shorter expert rides, Watts also recommends Estates Drive, a road run off Tiger Road in Breckenridge with several loopy switchbacks. Camp suggests riding Ski Hill Road in Breck as a loop, with the gondola as a shuttle back to the top. The pavement is rough enough to make sliding tough, so be ready to foot brake.
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