Take some of the best and toughest ice-hockey players in the world, a sizzling atmosphere, stunning surroundings, tonnes of steel, a huge cooling system and thousands of square metres of frozen water. The result? Red Bull Crashed Ice! Since the first ever race back in 2001, Red Bull Crashed Ice has developed to become the most breathtaking winter sports events in the world. Ice-hockey aces hurtle down courses up to 500 metres in length in groups of four, shoulder to shoulder, as they fight it out for victory. The whole race is held on a steep downhill track dotted with chicanes, jumps and rollers. Pushing, sliding, sprinting and wrangling are all on the menu as the athletes race down the course, but the rules are, in fact, very simple: first to the bottom wins.
In Red Bull Crashed Ice, skaters descend a steep ice canal filled with bumps, jumps, rollers and obstacles four-at-a-time, jostling for position as they reach speeds of up to 70kph. With only the top two racers going through to the next round, competition is fierce. The event is held in a classic knockout format, and the field of 64 riders starting the main event is whittled down to just four athletes competing for the title in the Final.
But how do you prepare for such a unique race? First and foremost it is essential to know what you are doing on the ice! However, that doesn’t mean that all of the athletes competing in Red Bull Crashed Ice ply their trade in the world’s top ice hockey leagues – for example, the sport's most famous name, Jasper Felder, is a professional bandy player, a game popular in his native Sweden and similar to ice hockey with a round ball and many rules adopted from football.
The sport most similar to ice cross downhill is probably ski cross. In this discipline, skiers descend a snow course featuring jumps, rollers and banked corners four-at-a-time, with the fastest two athletes progressing to the next round. While physical contact is (as with ice cross downhill) not officially permitted, the high speeds and twisty courses make for spectacular action and plenty of crashes.
All amateur ice skaters, as well as professional ice hockey players, can qualify for the races through a series of national qualifiers. Find out more at redbullcrashedice.com.
Watch Jasper in action in Lausanne in 2009: