What’s to Love: Located 12 miles SE of Sandy, Oregon on the flanks of Mt. Hood, Windells is a training camp for kids (and adults!) interested in skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, BMX, and free riding. The sheer magnitude of the outdoor skatepark (aka “concrete jungle”) is enough to make most kids’ jaws drop to the ground in awe. I hope to write about the camp experience (academy, residential, and day) in the near future, but the focus of this article is off-season/day-use access for the general public, which is well worth the price of admission and drive from Portland.
I’ve visited so many skate parks lately, and they are often packed with kids. Why do kids love hanging out at skate parks? Skate parks represent a freedom for most kids: there are rules, but they’re rarely enforced, only a few parents hangout, kids don’t have to wear helmets or pads, etc. I would have loved all those things when I was a kid too! Now that I’m a parent, I would like a little bit of regulation and/or supervision. If you’re with me, Windells is the place for you!
Windells strikes a nice balance of giving kids and adults enough space to have fun without cramping their style. Kids seem to follow the rules without enforcement measures. This is the beauty of a business operating a skate park! If I had a problem while there, I would have had someone to talk to. At outdoor skate parks, you have no one to complain to and must make decisions on whether or not to confront people. In my opinion, confronting people at skate parks is generally not a good idea!
Windells is on 50+ acres and separated into three main sections: the cabins, outdoor skate park, and an indoor skate park. Even the residential area has features throughout! Campers can just walk 10 yards out their doors and practice tricks. The outdoor park has a “…you have to see it to believe it” aura – it’s MASSIVE in scale. There are plenty of ramps, bowls, rails, stairs, etc., and the entire park is well kept.
Unfortunately, during our visit (November, 2011) we couldn’t skate much of it due to rain. However, there is plenty of great skating indoors, and the quality certainly rivals Portland’s old “Department of Skateboarding” indoor park. Here is a video clip from our visit. If you want an endless supply of Windells’ videos, just YouTube “Windells,” and you’ll be all set for hours.
Caveats: Obviously the biggest caveat is “…do you really want your kid getting into potentially dangerous sports?” It seems like all my 8-year old wants to do now is visit skate parks and try crazy tricks. Every sport has risks, but the potential for serious injury when involved in Snowboarding, BMX, and skateboarding is not something to take lightly as a parent.
My 8-year old went careening down the ramp in the is picture and shot himself into the foam pit (picture below). My wife an I were terrified watching, but we felt we had to let go a bit and let him try. He nailed it.
Every “skate park” you’ll visit will have bikes. I understand that bikers need a place to practice as well; however, most bikes don’t have brakes and many riders are careless. If a bike hits you, the risk for injury is high. In general, I wish that bikers and skateboarders were separated into their own ride-times or areas of parks.
While you’re welcome to skate outside in the “concrete jungle,” during the fall/winter months, the bowls will, most likely, be filled with either water, dirt, leaves, or snow. There are brooms you can use to clean-up, but you’ll probably be spending most of your time indoors.
Distance from Portland: About 40 miles from Portland and 12 miles east of Sandy, Oregon. Here is a Google Map.
Recommended Ages: My recommendation would be to make sure your kids feel comfortable in most skate parks before coming to Windells. The place can be a bit overwhelming for total beginners. With that in mind, during their open skate weekends, it’s public access for all!
While my kids were the youngest there, no one had a problem or gave us dirty looks. I found most of the kids very friendly and helpful. The staff members were impressed with my 3-year old’s skateboarding skills and did their best to make us feel at home.
Parental Stress Factor: High! If your kid has skills and is comfortable skating in parks, do yourself a favor and just drop him/her off (NOTE: must be 11 years or older to skate without parent or guardian) and take a nice relaxing hike up at Mt. Hood! That way, you won’t have to witness all the crazy stunts first-hand.
Physical Difficulty: Very hard! Skating in these types of parks demands a high level of control, physical awareness, balance, dexterity, etc. I’m constantly blown away with how these kids maneuver their boards, scooters, and bikes. This can be quite an intimidating place to visit without having been to their camps.
Family Fun Factor: While I certainly would describe Windells as a friendly destination (i.e., staff and skaters are nice, there are enforced rules, there is a supervisor, etc.), it’s not necessarily a place for “family fun.” There isn’t a “parent lounge” or any space set aside specifically for watching. Now, if your whole family skates, Windells will deliver an off-the-chart fun experience!
Not totally unrelated to “family fun,” Windells is a great place to get a group of your kids’ friends together and head up to Mt. Hood for a fun day of skating or biking.
Pet Friendly: No problem if you’re just dropping your kid/s off at Windells and heading for a nearby hike. Otherwise, it’s not a place for dogs.
Weather Considerations: An excellent rainy day destination! If I were a kid, I’d ask my parents to drive me up to Windells every single weekend during the rainy season. It’s the perfect place to hang with friends and build some serious skills. I hope my 8-year old doesn’t read this!
Insider Info: Although open skating times run throughout the down season, watch out for closures: Dec 23, 24, 25, Dec 30, 31, Jan 1, Mar 23, 24, 25, Apr 13, 14, 15, and Apr 20, 21, 22. This is for the 2011/2012 off season. The facility is also available for private rental!
For other indoor fun, Windells has some really nice trampolines surrounded by thick pads. These are professional-grade trampolines that athletes use to practice aerial tricks/stunts. Our kids loved jumping on these, which you can see in our video clip.
In addition, the foam pit (pictured below) is a lot of fun for kids. Yes, bikes, scooters, and skateboarders fly into the pit for a safe landing; however, there is a jumping platform and kids are welcome to practice their stunts (sans equipment) and just jump in! Make sure they understand that people doing aerial stunts coming down the ramps have priority. Great fun!
Family Tips: The amenities are a bit scarce! Plan on bringing your own food, drinks, and/or snacks. CASH ONLY!!! Great to be out on the floor with your kids, but please be careful and don’t let younger kids just wander around unsupervised. Most of the facility is for intermediate to advanced riders. There are some areas of the indoor park that are perfect for kids just learning (ask a staff member).
If you’re just doing a drop-off and want a nearby family hike, I recommend The Old Salmon Salmon River Trail. We did the hike this past summer. It’s perfect for younger kids and early walkers. Definitely can bring a jogging stroller on the trail.
Other Posts of Interest...
Black Butte Ranch on August 9th, 2009
Freeriding in Post Canyon on February 28th, 2010
Parent & Child Yoga on February 28th, 2012