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New England Winters - Avoiding ramp rot by winterizing

When was the last time you saw this scene in a sk8 mag?

snow covered half pipe
Snow covered halfpipe in Yarmouth, MA (Jan 2007)

Living in New England presents some seasonal challenges. Each Winter we endure the cold, break out shovels, use tire-chains... and skate. We get spoiled by the hot Summers and all the skateboard videos showing SoCal's endless Summer. But each year around October, the air gets a chill, the trees drop their leaves and you don't go skate without a hoodie.

When you head out to sk8 during a New England Winter, all the tools change. No need for bailing pools - they'll be frozen. The rake you used to clear debris is replaced with a snow shovel and that push-broom you used to fan out wet areas makes for a good snow removal tool. Adapting to the changing seasons is just part of the routine.

I actually like photographing ramps and parks in the dead of Winter since you don't really think of them being covered in snow. But a snow-covered ramp is not a good thing. It might look pretty, but that innate beauty will wear thin when you're having to spend a fortune on rot repairs.

Covering Your Ramp

What's the last thing you want to do after building a backyard ramp? Paint it.

When you've finished all the back-breaking work of construction, you want to skate, not spend the next 2 days painting the damn thing. So, go have a cool session, or two, or three... then paint your ramp! All surfaces should be covered with paint of a sealant of some sort.

Consult a qualified builder as to sealing the riding surface. Different surfaces require different types of paint or sealant. Paint and sealants all come in different varieties, but not all of them will be the best option for the riding surface!

Adhering to the above advice, paint all the exposed surfaces of your ramp - both flats and upright posts. Even a quick layer of paint will help protect your ramp during crappy weather and harsh elements doled out by Mother Nature. Two coats are better, but its up to you... I'm not gonna paint your ramp - you are.

Winterizing Your Ramp with a Tarp

You wouldn't leave your bike out in the snow and certainly not your skate (ignore the casually discarded skateboards in the pic above), so take care of your ramp. Prying up and replacing your ramp's riding surface isn't fun. Rain is bad enough, but having wet snow sit on it's surface all Winter long just isn't good.

Hopefully you did your homework and elevated the flat-bottom of your ramp so it doesn't sit flush on the ground. If you didn't... um, well... tough luck. Leaving some "breathing room" beneath your ramp is essential in a wet or wintery climate. You'd be surprised how quickly wood will rot when it's terminally moist.

The simplest and cheapest thing for ramp protection is putting a tarp over it when not riding. This helps out two-fold. One, it keeps snow (and rain) off the riding surface, extending it's natural life. The second benefit is when the tarp is covered in snow, give a tug and all the snow should come off with it - which is a lot easier than shoveling or brooming it off.

People are lazy by nature and covering a ramp with a tarp is a pain in the ass. If you live in a snowy area, just get in the habit of doing it. If you don't ride it in the Winter, then you only have to do it once - along with mild upkeep. It'll be a pain if you ride frequently, so check the weather frequently. Storm coming? Go cover the ramp!

Protecting Ramps from Rain with a Tarp

Remember those horrid weeks when it rained all week long? Did you cover your ramp? Me wither. But when you know there is an extended storm coming, securing a tarp to keep your pricey skatelite (or plywood - it's not free!) dry will save money and headaches down the road.

Generally, we all would agree that rain falls straight down. When a severe storm hits, the wind will blow and suddenly the rain ain't coming straight down - it's at a sharp angle. Who cares? Your ramp does. Just placing a tarp over the flat bottom will not have much effect. Rain will run down the transition and seep under the tarp. By the same token, if you don't adequately cover the structure, water damage can occur.

Simply make sure the tarp extends over the sides of the ramp so water can't get onto the riding surface. Most tarps have grommets, so just tie the thing down and go inside and play video games or watch sk8 videos.

Installing a Tarp

You'd think installing a tarp would be a fairly easy task to carry out. Not so. Some folks just don't get it... and by "getting it" I mean they do it wrong.

It's a tarp not a tent. You'd be surprised how many people think they can span a tarp from the top of the roll-out decks and create a pseudo-roof above their ramp. This fails for several reasons. Wind will surely tear the tarp from whatever attachment method you've used and it'll end up blowing down the street. We already agreed that rain falls at an angle, so a lot of rain will get onto the riding surface anyway. Another issue is snow and rain are heavy and will tear the tarp from it's tent-like attachment.

Water weighs about 62 pounds per cubic foot which is a difficult quantity to understand. Do you drink milk? Do you buy it by the gallon? We all know roughly what a gallon is. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. That's not very heavy, but think about how much rain would fall into a giant tarp hanging over your ramp. 15-25 gallons of water is used in the average five-minute shower. By weight, that's between 125 and 210 pounds. Imagine the weight from a torrential downpour. Yeah, the ramp tent idea isn't going to work out well.

Conclusion

Protecting your ramp from nature's elements is simply protecting your investment in the ramp. You likely spent a lot of money and time to build it. Even if you stole all the wood (not recommended), if the ramp collapses, you'll have to risk getting caught stealing all the new wood. Take care of it and it will last long enough for your town's zoning committee to order it's removal.

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