By Cameron Paterson
Winter isn’t all about festive ice rinks and impromptu sleighing. The conditions are also perfect for professional skiing and, more specifically, Red Bull’s borderline insane Ice Cross Downhill discipline.
Some of Scotland’s most famous ice stars, including Olympic bronze medallist Alain Baxter, have taken to the frozen landscape to compete in the Red Bull Crashed Ice tour, which runs until February.
Baxter began his Crashed Ice career in 2015 and has currently taken part in three events, currently riding for ‘The Scottish Bravehearts’ team. At the first event of the year, Baxter was unlucky to miss out on the final 64, finishing in 66th. He is currently ranked 107th in the world rankings. He has previously been joined in the team by fellow Scots Callum Boyd and Haydn Bain, the world number 67 and 86 respectively, in last year’s competition.
But what is this crazy-sounding sport actually all about? Ice Cross Downhill is the fastest sport on skates, where the competitors go down a surprising ice track littered with large drops, hairpin turns and gaps at speeds of more than 50km/h. Four riders go down the track at once and the fastest two enter the next round, with 64 competitors taking part in all in a final after competing in the previous day’s shootouts to eliminate some athletes.
From its inception in 2001, there have been 15 seasons of the events, comprising of 37 races in 12 countries and 20 locations, with 12 different winners. From 2001 to 2009, the competition comprised of a single event before converting into a world championship in 2010. Before 2010 the competition was purely a men’s and team event, before a one-off competition for women between 2010 and 2014. 2015 saw the first Women’s World Championship take place in the sport.
At each of the events, world championship points are available to the athletes, with a maximum of 1000 available to the event’s victor, with 800 for second, 600 for third and 500, 450, 400, 360, 320, 290 and 260 and steadily declining. Every rider who finishes in the top 100 claims some points for their finishing position.
The rider with the most points from their best three Crashed Ice and Riders’ Cup races walks away as the World Champion for 2015/16 in either the mens, womens or team category, with recent previous men’s champions including Canada’s Scott Croxall and Austria’s Marco Dallago.
As well as this event, there is the Riders Cup competition: athletes building their own personal tracks with the assistance of local ski resorts and organisations. This includes races in the likes of Austria, France, Finland, Canada and the USA in between the Crashed Ice tour events.
The event is governed by the All-Terrain Skate Cross Federation (ATSX) who deliver the rules and guidelines for riders taking part in Ice Cross Downhill, Dirt Cross and Lumber Cross events around the world.
ATSX itself is interestingly developing national federations since its creation in 2015. Federations in Austria, Finland, Russia and the USA have been developed, with the Canadian, French and German versions in the process of being created. You might hope that some day their growth can spread to the United Kingdom or even Scotland itself, especially if more riders can be unearthed in years to come.
Also, with the event as recently as 2015 reaching Belfast, you may hope that one day the organisers decide to descend on one of the arenas or landmarks in Scotland. In the meantime, we have to wait and watch from afar and do our impressions of skating while trying to combat the winter weather.
If you want to give the spectacle a watch, the events are available to watch live and on demand at redbullcrashedice.com and Red Bull TV.
And don’t forget to keep an eye out for interviews with Scottish participants online, and in our upcoming magazine!