What is Ice Cross Downhill?

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What is Ice Cross Downhill?

Emily Sherman, Editor

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Although ice cross downhill has existed as a well-attended sport in the U.S.A. since 2010, many people still have never heard of it.  Ice cross downhill is considered to be one of the most extreme winter sports, in which four participants race down a walled ice track (featuring sharp turns and high vertical drops) on ice skates, reaching speeds of up to 50mph.  The fear of falling while on skates does not exist in this intense arena; racers just have to cross the finish line first. The means of getting there do not matter; one could slide through to the end or manage to remain upright.

Red Bull sponsors the world tour of the event under the title Crashed Ice.  Enormous ice tracks are built in historic city centers to challenge the racers who train for the sport. The tracks are made of steel scaffolding, topped by wood shaped to the desired curves, and covered with flexible mats and a network of tubes filled with cooled fluid like glycol.  Water is sprayed onto the whole track, slowly building up a four-inch layer of ice. In response to concerns that the weather might not be cool enough to maintain a track of thick, solid ice, Red Bull Crashed Ice sport director Christian Papillon confirmed that there is chilling technology to protect the ice.  

The ice track in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Credit to The Atlantic.

A lower level tour, the Riders Cup, exists to supplement the Crashed Ice feature events. With its establishment, Crashed Ice competitors must qualify through Riders Cup points.  The men’s world championship has existed since 2010, and the women’s since 2015.  A junior (combined men’s and women’s) world championship began in 2016. Twenty-seven year old Andrew Bergeson — a former collegiate linebacker from Red Wing, Minnesota — says, “This sport seemed like the perfect amalgam of all the sports I love.  The skating of hockey, physicality of football, racing of track and field, and jumps of freestyle skiing.  Before I ever competed I knew I would love the sport.”

Ice cross downhill is headed to Fenway in Boston, MA on February 8th and 9th, as part of Red Bull’s Crashed Ice world tour.  As the best racers in the world descend a seven-story tower on a 2,000-foot track, the location of a famous ballpark is excellent advertising for a sport hoping to rise the ranks in popularity.  Reigning women’s ice cross downhill world champion and former Dartmouth hockey player, Amanda Trunzo, explains, “A huge thing for our sport is to show it to people who have never seen it, and get it into new locations.”  Similarly, two-time men’s ice cross downhill world champion Cameron Naasz agrees that the ultimate reward of Fenway for him would be to see a local child become involved with the sport.

Although a fairly common yet rarely represented sport, ice cross downhill is sure to make a dramatic debut at Fenway.  As some of the best racers meet to battle out the championship, their athletic skills from sports like hockey, football, and track will combine to produce a spectacle of agility, strength, and speed.  Whether watching from Fenway Park, or streaming live on Red Bull’s website, the excitement of such an adrenaline-filled sport is sure to be contagious.