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Wheel Power

From Olympic cyclists and world-class mountain bikers to those who defy gravity on skateboards and dirt bikes, Idaho is full of wheel pioneers.

Olympic gold medalist, Kristin Armstrong.

Olympic gold medalist, Kristin Armstrong.

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Sun Valley isn’t a very easy location to get to. It’s far enough off the beaten path that getting in and out of this place can be a challenge. So you really have to want to come to Sun Valley to get here. But once most folks do arrive, they often want to stay. It’s easy to get around, especially if you like to a ride a bike, and there’s just something about Sun Valley and its surroundings that sparks people’s passions—especially people dedicated to sports that involve wheels. That’s why we’ve decided to shine the spotlight on seven individuals and their families who have made marks in wheeled sports—whether two-wheeled, four-wheeled, motorized or pedal-powered.



1. Jens Peterson, 24, may spend his mornings roasting the well-known coffee beans of K&K and Grace Organics, but he’s also known for serving out another kind of local grind. Anyone glancing over at the Hailey Skate Park on their way to the south side of town is likely to notice Peterson’s lanky silhouette bobbing up and down along the lip of the park’s bowl or sessioning another of the park’s features.

Having grown up spending his afternoons between the Valley’s skateparks and Baldy’s slopes, Peterson discovered his passion for board sports early on. However, during his pursuit of competitive snowboarding after high school, Peterson says he grew weary of the costs, both financially and emotionally.

“With snowboarding, I loved it, but after competing for a certain amount of time, it became more like a job than being something fun to do,” Peterson says.

After realizing the competitive aspect of riding didn’t make him happy, he turned his full attention to skateboarding.

“With skateboarding, it was the only thing, and it still kind of is, that feels like it’s totally mine. It’s for me. It’s by me. And no one can take it away,” Peterson says.

And, unlike snowboarding and many other sports, Peterson said he appreciates skateboarding for its accessibility and versatility.

“When it comes down to it, skateboarding is wonderful because you can be in your normal clothes and if it’s dry outside and you have a skateboard in your hand—you’re skateboarding,” Peterson says.

Peterson had spent the last few years living in and skating around Southern California until he returned to the Valley in Fall 2011.

Since returning, Peterson said he is happy to be back because the Valley’s skateparks offer a sense of community and support that he did not find easily in other cities. Peterson, however, is the first to admit skating in a small mountain town offers its own set of challenges.

As expected, the combination of winter and outside-only skate parks bring a slew of months when Peterson cannot practice skating and keep his skills intact. He says in the spring, he always feels rusty and often has lost a trick or two that he will have to relearn come summer.

The Valley is also limiting because it offers few opportunities for him to practice his street skating (skateboarding that takes place outside of a park setting).

“For me, it’s always been about being a well-rounded skater,” Peterson says. “It’s about knowing how to do all the tricks you know how to do on any feature or in any sort of circumstance. If you’re a real skateboarder and you know what you’re doing, you can carry out your skating under any sort of conditions.”

Not being allowed to skate around outside of the parks hinders Peterson’s goal to know every trick he can do on surfaces other than those in the park.

Despite the limitations skating in the Valley can offer, Peterson remains positive when he skateboards.

Fellow skater and friend Tal Roberts described Peterson as a skater driven to have fun. Roberts said he envies Peterson, not only because of his talent but because he looks like he’s having a great time every single day that he is on a board.

And although Peterson finds it easy to be positive when he skates, he said he also makes an effort to pass that mentality along.

The skate park offers one of the few venues in any community where people of all different ages interact and bond. Peterson said he sees this as an opportunity for himself and others to change the negative stereotypes skateboarding has had in the past and to show younger generations how to be respectful skateboarders and overall positive people.

For Peterson, being a skateboarder has created a lifestyle that keeps him focused on being present in every moment and truly enjoying how he spends his time. Although Peterson could be a competitive skater, he said he loves the sport too much and never wants to burn himself out on it.

This means that for the time being, he plans to remain in the Valley, roasting beans, perfecting his backside 360 and his ability to do tricks switch (with the opposite foot forward) and all the while, loving every moment of it. -Hailey Tucker



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