Missoula hasn’t always shown open arms to skateboarders. It is a much friendlier environment these days than it was back when I was a skateboarder. I am not always fond of the “back in my day” stories, but Missoula was a different place in the pre- MOBASH days.  

Missoula Wasn't Always Nice To Skaters

When I was a skateboarder there were very few places where you could skateboard in Missoula without being chased away, either by the police or by security. My friends and I used to skate on the University of Montana campus in between the library and the UC Center on the “mounds” that used to be partially covered in bricks. That didn't last very long. That is where security would stop us. We used to skate behind the "Eastgate" Albertsons on the bank by the footbridge that crosses the river. That is where the police would stop us.

Skateboarding Is Not A Crime 

Skateboarders and the law used to go together in Missoula like oil and water. Every time we would even find a curb to try to skate on, we would be chased away. I used to have to skate uphill both ways to go to school. It was tough.

Skating In Missoula, I Had Support   

My parents actually both supported my skateboarding. My dad (the Pirate) liked the rebellious side of skating. My mom liked that I was out of the house and was getting exercise with my friends. My friends and I dreamed of building a ramp one day like the kind we saw in the skateboard videos that we had to rent on VHS. My mom had a big yard so it was decided, we would build it there right across the street from the southside McDonald’s restaurant.

We Built The Ramp In Missoula 

My mom left town for the weekend (which she normally never did), and we decided we would build the ramp. I didn't ask her permission. I figured I would ask for forgiveness. A group of us begged, borrowed, and scrounged to get everything we needed for the ramp. We worked furiously that weekend. A sheriff’s deputy even stopped by to check on the progress and ended up telling us to be careful and have a good day when he saw we weren't hardened criminals.  

attachment-Eric Skate 3
Credit: Chris Wolfe

The Missoula "McDonald's Ramp" Was Born

We finished the ramp, and it was glorious. It was over eight feet tall. Much bigger than we anticipated. When my mom got home she was not happy. I was able to talk her into letting us keep it, for a while. I think I may have even cried. Initially it kind of grew on her. She would grab a lawn chair and watch us skate in the evenings. The thing about the ramp was, it was visible from Brooks Street and McDonald’s. At the time, it was the only ramp that size in Missoula. I could be wrong, but I think that it was the tallest wooden skateboard ramp that has ever been built in Missoula to this day. Every skateboarder in town wanted to skate the “McDonald’s Ramp”. We also had people who didn’t skate just come to watch. We would skate from sunrise to sundown during that summer.  

It Didn't Last Long

All good things must come to an end. With the excitement of the ramp also came the headaches. My mom was concerned about safety and lawsuits. She woke me up more than once in the middle of the night to “Get those skaters off that ramp. It’s the middle of the night!” Skaters would walk into our house to use the bathroom. One skater actually decided to take a shower one day without asking. We eventually got a big cable that we would lock across the ramp at night so people wouldn’t skate without permission. 

Credit: Chris Wolfe
Credit: Chris Wolfe

The End Of The Missoula "McDonald's Ramp"

Eventually, it got to be too much, not only for my mom; but for me as well. It had to be taken down. In the dark of night, my friends and I took it down and moved it up into the woods at a friend's house up Pattee Canyon. We changed the dimensions so it wasn’t nearly as tall and it was hidden in the woods so you had to be “invited” to skate it. Having a skate ramp like that outside in Montana doesn’t last very long, mostly due to the weather and wear and tear.  

Credit: Chris Wolfe
Credit: Chris Wolfe

Plenty Of Places To Skate In Missoula

It was one of the most fun and exciting times of my life living in Missoula, even though it didn’t last very long. I don't think I ever thanked all the people that were a part of those great times, so thanks to all that made it possible. These days in Missoula, not only is there a thriving skating community, there are lots of places to skate in Missoula including MOBASH (thanks, Jeff Ament and the Missoula skating community). These days if you want to skate a ramp all year long you can skate the ramp in the back of Board of Missoula. That ramp is over 20 years old (thanks Chris Bacon) and is indoors so you can skate in the winter or when it is rainy for only $5 a year. You must sign a waiver if you want to skate. 

I Doubt We Could Have Done This Anywhere But Missoula

The person I need to thank the most for all of this was my mom. Even though she had plenty of sleepless nights, if it wasn't for her, none of the "McDonald's Ramp" would have ever happened. To this day the yard is still there and you would have no idea the landmark was ever there, but there are some who still remember. And I have the pictures.

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Gallery Credit: Mike Smith

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