Breathtaking heights, whizzing speeds, and breakneck competition— these words capture the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship. As a part of the annual St. Paul Winter Carnival, Crashed Ice kicked off the Ice Cross Downhill World Championships on Jan. 23.
“It was really exciting,” sophomore Shelby Tietel said. “I live really close, so I like to go every year.”
Ice cross downhill is a relatively new extreme sport which was created by the energy drink company Red Bull in 2001. It combines ice hockey, motorcross, and roller derby as four skaters are sent down an icy slope rife with obstacles, each striving to be the first to cross the finish line.
Skaters shot out of the mouth of the Saint Paul Cathedral and, around 50 seconds later, landed 1,410 feet below in downtown St. Paul. Speeds top out at 45 mph, and the competitors have to navigate jumps and sharp turns in pursuit of an adrenaline rush. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman reportedly ended up with a few bruises after he tested out the course.
“[Crashed Ice is] pretty crazy, but it’s still a really cool event,” sophomore Weston Lombard said. Lombard has attended Crashed Ice in past years and once even participated in the opening ceremonies.
“In the ceremonies they have flags for the countries of the contestants, and I carried the flag for the Czech Republic,” Lombard said.
According to the official Crashed Ice website, the ice cross downhill season consists of eight races, four Red Bull Crashed Ice races and four Rider’s Cup races. Competitors win points depending on how well they perform at each race, and the skater with the most points after all of the races wins the championship.
Tietel said, “I watched the team races, where six skaters go at once instead of four, which I think is really fun.”
Beginning with 200 athletes this year, the competition was whittled down to 64 men and 16 women just before the start of the Jan. 24 finals. Each final race consisted of four skaters, with each competing to be the first to cross the finish line.
After five rounds, Kyle Croxall of Canada took first place in the men’s competition, followed by Dean Moriarity of Canada, Dan Witty of the U.S., and Cameron Naasz of the U.S.
After three rounds, the eventual winner of the women’s competition was Salla Kyhala of Finland, followed by Canadians Jacqueline Legere, Tamara Kajah, and Gwynne Attenborough. This year marked the first time St. Paul had ever hosted a full women’s competition.
A record breaking crowd of 140,000 on Jan. 24 filled the cathedral yard, celebrating the extreme sport with Red Bull and shouts. The lights illuminating the track could be seen throughout St. Paul, basking the cathedral in a blueish glow.
Before the finals started, fireworks were launched and the national anthem was performed.
The races themselves proved exciting, with spectators close to the track able to feel the spray of ice as the competitors came whizzing down. To get a good view of the track, spectators need to arrive early or prepare to push their way to the front of the massive crowd.
Highlights from the event included a sibling rivalry between Dean and Dylan Moriarity, a thrilling comeback in the quaterfinals by Naasz from third place late in the race, and the snowmobiles racing down the course between rounds.