Roaring Fork residents Michelle Smith, Diane Chapin and Roslyn Bernstein know roller derby. You know, the fast-paced, full-contact sport played on roller skates. But like everything else, COVID-19 shut down the competitive league the three women had been a part of for 12 years. “And that team was really competitive,” Michelle says. “We were in the top 100 in the world, which is pretty significant considering most of the teams are from major cities like New York.
“Then, during the pandemic, we kept seeing people posting about roller skating on social media,” she continues. “And, of course, we've always been skating.” The three friends decided they wanted to start their own group in Glenwood Springs, but … there was no rink in the town.
Realizing that the Glenwood Spring Community Center had an ice rink that went unused in the summer—and that under the ice was polished concrete—the women asked the center if they could rent the rink for roller skating. And Roaring Fork Roller Derby was born.
“We did that last year kind of started to get some interest,” says Michelle. “Then this winter we realized we needed to be a little bit more inclusive. We decided to make it more about roller skating than roller derby. We changed the name of the club to Roaring Fork Roller Skate so we could include all ages, genders, and level of abilities, and now we’re teaching basic skills as well as how to play roller derby. We're really hoping it picks up momentum again, because it's just a great sport. It's really challenging, both mentally and physically. We’re committed to keeping it going.”
Maybe one of the best parts of being in roller derby is you get an awesome nickname. Michelle’s is Chelle on Wheels, Roslyn’s is Vicious Kitty and Diane’s is Di’an Grenade. “And in a lot of these groups, I don’t even know what their actual names are. Your nickname becomes your new identity. We have a skater who’s a baker and her name is Whisk Taker. Another girl chose a name for herself, and we were like, ‘No, you're your Little Ninja. You're a little ninja.’ And it totally suits her.”
Ready to skate? The club practices every Tuesday and Thursday, 6–8 p.m., at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Michelle says anyone can just drop in and give it a try for a $6 drop-in fee. “If you show up once you’ll be hooked.” And who knows, maybe you’ll get a cool nickname too.
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