Aspen’s skate community comes together at Radio; JAM Saturday teams up with Ducky Derby

Jack Swiger
For The Aspen Times
A young skateboarder prepares to drop in during a session in June at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

On Saturday, Aspen’s only local boardshop, Radio, will partner with the Ducky Derby to host a “SK8BOARD JAM” from noon to 2 p.m. in the Rio Grande Skatepark.

This competition will attract pros and amateurs alike all throughout Aspen and other neighboring towns. There will be three categories — kids, teens, and pros — to test who can perform the most jaw-dropping tricks, with the pros competing for a $1,000 grand prize.

This is the first time that Radio has collaborated with the derby since the pandemic.

Travis McLain founded Radio in October 2005 alongside Michael Young “to make snow, skate, and lifestyle products available to people of the Roaring Fork Valley,” he said, because he saw that no other store in Aspen was offering as much.

Aside from their products, Radio aims to combine affordability with kind and approachable employees.

John “J.C.” Cody, who has worked there since 2007, said they are “always down to help people out, where I feel, you know, other stores could shy most people away.”

Mike Nikulin, a skateboard instructor at Radio for three years, described Radio as “a really good community. We remember your face. We get to know you.” 

The shop is almost synonymous with the Rio Grande skatepark, which was built by Team Pain Skateparks in 2000 and is where the shop hosts skate camp for kids. This camp was started with the goal of not only making money, but also to spread skater culture in Aspen.

Nikulin came to Aspen to work as a ski instructor but said what keeps him here are the kids and the warm environment the skate camp offers. He said the camp is “second to none,” a lot more hands-on in the way they teach kids compared to camps when he was younger.

“There is no denying that the skateboard camp is a good contributing part of the business,” he said, as it generates an estimated quarter of Radio’s revenue compared to retail. Its biggest benefit to the shop, though, is earning them “a really good and positive reputation.”

After opening it, McLain started running Basalt Bikes in Aspen next to the board shop. The bike shop is more profitable than the boardshop, but he continues to make an effort to keep Radio open and the skate camp available. The boardshop is not just a business, but almost like a family, he said.

Cody and Nikulin expressed interest in competing for the grand prize in the JAM. Nikulin said he thought it might be special for some of the kids he teaches to see him in action.

The contest also just happens to be on Cody’s 35th birthday, which would make a $1,000 prize a nice present.

Jack Swiger is a high-school student who has been visiting Aspen during summers for much of his life. He said a highlight of his stays is the skatepark and Radio community.