Crashed Ice

February 1, 2012 by cynick | Posted in saint-paul

On a summer day, a year and a half ago, I was biking back from Lilydale along Shepard Road, and just after I passed the High Bridge, I ran into a thick crowd. “Oh yea,” I thought. “That crazy Red Bull ‘Flugtag’ thing!” It had been hyped up in the newspaper, but I’d mostly shrugged it off.

As I tried to progress farther down the trail, the crowd got so thick that not only could I not walk my bike, I had to fold it and lift it over my head to get anywhere! To be certain, I don’t consider myself claustrophobic – the time spent in my youth traversing the various storm drains of St. Paul cured me of that – but I was feeling mightily boxed in by that pack of Red Bull-swilling twenty somethings, mostly male, who were repeatedly uttering the word duuuude, emphasis not mine.

The crowd size that day was estimated to be 90000! Only in Minnesota would that many people – roughly the third of the size of the capitol city – be bored enough on a sunny July day to watch a bunch of idiots nosedive hackneyed flying devices into the drink.

And indeed, what a spectacle there was to be seen across the river, during the few times I could crane my neck across the people and actually see something. It later turned out that one of the flights I had witnessed had set the world record for distance.

In short, those idiots turned out to be highly entertaining. Red Bull really seems to know how to put on a show!

So when the mayor of St. Paul proudly announced that the city had landed another one of these events – this time featuring idiots ice skating down a bobsled run that was to be manufactured on one of the steepest hills in the city – I thought, “Oh yeah! That sounds like fun!”

On the day before the final competition, I hiked up to the Cathedral area to watch and photograph the time trials. I figured that there wouldn’t be too many people out there in 12°F, early on a Friday afternoon, but I was wrong. There were maybe a couple thousand people, happily generating muffled rounds of applause through their woolen mittens.

I was amazed by the sheer amount of gear that had been installed. Cables, lights, scaffolding, cameras, oh my! The neatest thing of all was a skycam (but not necessarily a Skycam™) that had been strung up high above the length of the course. It was a useful tool for detecting when a – what do you call these people? Crashers? – was on his way down the hill, for, there were no vantage points that offered a single view of the entire course. They should have built some bleachers to go along with the scaffolds.

I definitely saw some cringe-worthy spills and crashes. C’mon, everyone, let’s be honest, that’s what we were all there to see, wasn’t it? I think one of the guys broke some ribs crashing into the boards, and kept on going, guzzling Red Bulls from both hands all the rest of the way down.

See! the pics: