Being that it is winter here in Minnesota there isn’t too much to do, at least for me. I only seem to tolerate winter for a month or so. Being someone who enjoys anything motorsports related this is a tough time of year for me and this winter has been particularly rough. Enter Red Bull Crashed Ice and for the third year in a row it has stopped in St. Paul, bringing with it a reason to leave hibernation and brave the arctic temperatures.
Thursday was my first day to check out the action. The day consisted of two practice rounds and a National Shootout round.
The weather was an unseasonably warm 3°C. That, plus the skaters getting a feel for the course, meant a more conservative approach was being taken. The combination of rain and snow made the ice incredibly slushy to the point where it seemed pointless for them to be on course.
The National Shootout is where all 100 of the US skaters head out for two timed runs, with only the top 32 making advancing to Friday’s elimination round. Watching how well the skaters navigate the 430-meter canal of ice is quite impressive considering they have to address 40 meters of elevation change, six extremely difficult turns, and seven jumps while reaching speeds of up to 65 km/h.
On Friday things had changed drastically. I was disappointed I missed the International Shootout but, the snow from Thursday continued all night leaving us with a wonderful 25-30 cm. The temperature had also dropped to -15°C turning the highways into skating rinks; my 25 minute drive turned into an hour and a half.
The ice was chipping and forming ruts everywhere you looked. Course workers would come out every few runs and spray water onto the course to fill them in.
The skaters would often get caught in these ruts and go flying into the boards feet first…
…you get the idea, every wipeout looking more painful than the last. The wipeouts happen to be one of my favorite parts of the whole event.
Elimination continues with group runs of four skaters and the hairpin is a fun place to take in the action. Skaters are required to go around the punching bag to have their time count.
Skaters go all out to make sure they are one of the top two in the group or they face elimination. It becomes extremely entertaining; things get faster and a lot more physical.
One miss-step leaves skaters struggling to stay in the fight. The tiniest of mistakes often means the end of the competitor’s weekend.
Staying on your feet for the uphill climb is crucial for staying in the race, as in the previous photo it is where most skaters either won or lost the race.
The team competition is where the competition gets extremely exciting. It is a head-to-head knockout competition and helps the skaters earn additional points toward their overall ranking.
I enjoyed being able to move around the course fairly freely since the weather was keeping the crowds away. With Red Bull expecting 100,000 Saturday night I felt it best to take advantage of this when I could.
Wearing Zubaz in this weather deserves a proper amount of respect. I never remembered them to be very warm.
A spot I really enjoyed to watch from was the jump leading up to the finish line. Kyle Croxall was last year’s winner in St.Paul and was booed heavily as he went over the jump. I could only assume it was due to Team Canada beating Team USA in Sochi earlier in the day. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Knowing they were far in the lead, some would try a variety of moves heading over the final jump. I enjoyed this but was secretly hoping one or two would biff their landing.
Nothing like watching someone on ice skates fly by you at over 60 km/h.
Striking a pose without slamming into the wall is impressive; I was kind of hoping someone would slam into the wall but sadly that never happened.
The winners are determined by whose skate crossed the finish line first. When the finish is close it comes down to instant replay to determine the outcome. Skaters watched the replays on the projector screens while catching their breath.
They would take a brief moment to congratulate each other, discuss their run, and pose for the cameras before heading back up the hill.
Saturday I arrived early to stake out a spot. I knew they were expecting 100,000 people so I wanted to be sure I had a good spot to watch the finals. This may be the best place to watch from; the skaters carry a ton of speed coming down the steep 15-meter drop from the start line sending them flying over the first jump.
I was glad I got there when I did. At around 6pm the floodgates opened and fans piled in.
The top 64 headed out for knock out elimination, running in groups of four with the top two advancing. This was great to watch. The skaters were going all out, getting plenty of air in the process.
Launching over the jump is a risky process. The crowd’s reaction was what I expected it to be: loud cheers every time someone slammed into the ice.
Anyone who had lost their footing was left scrambling; sending whoever landed cleanly into a mad dash to put distance between him and the rest of the competition.
The competition was moving at a very fast pace. Maintenance crews were no longer taking the time to tend to the ice at this point. It seemed to be causing skaters issues right after the start. Holes were being dug out where the skaters landed and avoiding them was becoming an issue.
Facing elimination as the finals approached, skaters were pushing harder and harder often having trouble staying on their feet.
Whoever thought that having bikers take to the course during the intermission before the finals is a genius. The man in the clown suit face planting towards the end of the course being the highlight.
The night for me seemed to go by in a blur. In the snap of a finger the finals were here. After the five second warning they were off.
Rocketing by just as quickly as they started and triggering the mad dash of people to the finish line. By the time I had made it halfway down the hill the podium ceremony was already complete.
Red Bull Crashed Ice is a spectacle, something that I enjoy quite thoroughly. Red Bull has a habit of pushing the boundaries of extreme sports and they do a great job of it. Crashed Ice unique in that Red Bull kind of way, a sport that makes sense for colder climates. I didn’t see one person without a smile on their face and to me that is the whole point. My toes and fingers may have been cold but I was grinning ear to ear the entire time. I hope you enjoyed my take on a weekend at Crashed Ice, I know I sure did. It will make stops in Moscow and Montreal before the end of March. If you happen to be in the vicinity of those cities I highly recommend checking it out. Many thanks to Life Blasters for giving me the opportunity to share my experience with you!