When Andrew Bergeson bought his house in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, his neighbor gravely intoned one overarching community rule: Out here, people buy acreage lots for a reason. That reason may be privacy, it may be the silence, or it may be the glacial beauty of the adjacent golf course in winter, when it’s covered in several feet of snow that serenely leads down to the banks of the frozen Mississippi River.
Bergeson nodded. He understood. Because when he bought this house he had his own reasons. First, it was exactly equidistant between where his wife, Samantha, works up near Minneapolis, and where he works as a nuclear power plant operator a half an hour south.
And with two acres of land and a steep hill, he and his younger brother could build a really kick-ass 600-foot-long downhill ice cross course in the backyard, complete with ramps that could launch them up to four feet in the air, double kicker jumps, and a sloping turn that finishes perfectly adjacent to the main road after the two reach speeds of 35 mph. It would be the ideal location to set up an at-home training facility in their bid to achieve global domination of the sport’s championship series, Red Bull Crashed Ice.
He didn’t tell his neighbor that right away, of course.
It takes a certain type to participate in downhill ice cross. Physical skills aside, it appeals to someone with the double banzai belief that hockey just doesn’t have enough startling elevation changes, and that downhill skiing would be much more satisfying if it was done on something less stable than skis -- say, blades.
Since 2010, Red Bull Crashed Ice has hosted the downhill ice cross world championships, a series of events where elevated ice tracks are built in city centers and an elite group of skaters compete against each other to be the first to reach the bottom. It’s a mad scramble that includes several hundred feet of elevation change and course features that require guts for glory: rolling hills, kicker jumps, step-ups, and queasy, centrifugal-force-baiting corkscrews. In 2014, there are four stops in the series: Helsinki; Moscow; Quebec -- and in Bergeson’s other backyard of St. Paul, Minnesota.
It takes a certain type to participate in Crashed Ice -- someone who feels skiing would be more satisfying on blades.
Since downhill ice cross is in its infancy, there’s no generally accepted training regimen, no practice drills that have been used for generations, no three-ring binders full of laminated workout routines to check off. There are precious few permanent downhill ice cross tracks in the world, and they are all located in Europe: Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Finland. For American competitors, doing the sport means doing it yourself...
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