The crazy people at the Collegian, the student paper at The University of Tulsa, let me write stuff. This article below was featured in the Feb. 11th issue. (link to article coming soon)
I was skipping through the channels a couple of years ago when I came across a strange event on NBC that caught my eye. Four people dressed in hockey gear wear flying up and down hills, over jumps and around tight corners.
The sport is called downhill ice cross and the event is called Red Bull Crashed Ice, part of the Red Bull Signature Series. The goal of downhill ice cross is similar to those of ski cross and snowboard cross: the athlete’s aim is to race along a fixed downhill path on skates. The sport is barely more than a decade old, having begun with Red Bull sponsorship. The first Crashed Ice event was in Stockholm, Sweden in 2001, and one event was held annually following.
Red Bull has been a fantastic sponsor for the sport. They have negotiated a TV deal with NBC which helps spread awareness of the sport, and have paid to build the custom tracks. Red Bull goes even farther by not only abstaining from charging an entry fee, but also paying the travel costs for all contestants, including cash award prizes for the top eight finishers. This allows many people to participate in the sport who otherwise could not have.
Cities also seem to love the event. The New York Times reported that the 2012 St. Paul event brought in $20 million for the city.
Beginning in 2010, multiple events were held each year, with points awarded by place finish in an event. After the end of each downhill ice cross season, a world champion is crowned by points won. The current ice cross world champion is Kyle Croxal.
There will be five Crashed Ice events this year. The first was held on Dec. 1 in Niagara Falls, Canada, the second is St. Paul, Minn. on Jan. 26 and the third event in Landgraaf, the Netherlands last Saturday. The fourth will be held in Lausanna, Switzerland on March 2nd and the final event for the year will be held in Quebec City, Canada on March 16.
Events last for three days, the first two of which serve to filter down the number of competitors to 64 skaters. Each heat features four skates; the first and second place finish in each heat advance to the next round. The final day’s event lasts about two hours. At St. Paul this year, about 115,000 people showed up for the free event to cheer on the many Americans, many of whom were, unsurprisingly from Minnesota Only 80,000 people showed up for the Crashed Ice in St. Paul the previous year.
Even though Red Bull has a deal with NBC to air the Crashed Ice events, the events do not air live on NBC, but rather are streamed live on RedBull.tv. NBC aired the event held in Niagara Falls, Canada the afternoon before the Crashed Ice event in St. Paul was held. The victor of the Niagara Falls Crashed Ice was the current world champion, Kyle Croxal.
For anyone interested in viewing a new sport on the rise, there are many great compilations on YouTube, and the event from St. Paul will be aired on NBC this Saturday at 3 p.m.