Russia's fabled winters are not the stuff of fairy tales. Temperatures in the capital, Moscow (nine-million inhabitants), frequently dip below zero, and over the centuries the bitter cold has been credited with defeating invading armies, including those of both Napoleon and Hitler. While Russian summers are warm and urban terrain is plentiful, by October skaters have traditionally had to shelve their boards for the lack of indoor terrain. In Moscow, at least, now there's an alternative.
This past December, Moscow distributor Kvant hosted a grand opening at its new Adrenalin Skatepark, named for a chain of skate shops it operates around the capital. The huge 75,000-square-foot indoor complex is located in a residential district in the northern outskirts of Moscow, and was actually built and ready to ride over a year before it actually opened.
After the weather, one of the most powerful forces in Russia is its thick bureaucracy. If not for the sheer tenacity, perseverance, and good political connections of Kvant's management, Russian skaters would be dusting off their boards this spring. The very fact that Adrenalin Skatepark opened its doors and hosted the grand opening event is a miracle in itself, but add to that its 22,000 square feet of skate terrain, including birch-surfaced vert and mini ramps and a street course built by German park builder Andreas Schuetzenberger, and you have an unbelievable, but inevitable facility.
Since Russia emerged from the dissolved Soviet Union over a decade ago, skaters there have made their own equipment or bartered with Western friends in order to ride. Skateboarding has a rich history in that part of the world, and the talented skaters there finally have shops, parks, and access to some unbelievable street spots. What they haven't had are tours and visits from top pros to inspire them, and they haven't had anywhere to ride during the winter.
Now they have both.
Distributing most major U.S. skate brands, Kvant lured over 100 pros and skate-industry execs to the grand opening–Kenny Hughes, Mike Crum, Colt Cannon, Gideon Choi, Louie Barletta, Chad Fernandez, Jaya Bonderov, and Gianni Zattoni among them–and the group could hardly believe what they saw. The cavernous park sits in the center of a complex with an Internet cafe, arcade, restaurant, two bars, day-care center, equipment-rental department, an in-line skating rink, and concert area. Much like the famous Vans Skatepark in Orange, California, the Adrenalin park also features a mezzanine deck for spectators to look down over the skating area. It's an impressive facility by any standard and will undoubtedly have a profound effect on the skate scene in the emerging Russian economy.
And it only costs a buck to skate–not exactly cheap for locals, but accessibility is a primary concern for the park's owners.
With only a few sporadic visits from Western pros over the past decade, Russia now has a first-class facility to host demos and contests. Through the hail and ice, pros and team managers who came to the grand opening could see the city's wealth of natural street terrain and are eager to return in the spring.
So if you're sick of seeing photos and footage from Barcelona, get ready for the granite and marble ledges of the former capital of the Communist International. The Soviets ultimately lost the Cold War, and now their monuments will be ground to gravel by footy-hungry American skaters.
This winter, when Mother Nature chases them away, at least the locals can now incubate their skills on the smooth and warm rails and ramps at Adrenalin Skatepark. Finally able to skate unimpeded year-round, it won't be long before we see Russian talent making the trek West to return the favor.