To start us off, on Saturday Lindsay and I witnessed the craziness of Red Bull Crashed Ice, the yearly extreme sports extravaganza held under the shadow of St. Paul Cathedral. Consisting of the ice cross downhill world championships, after events in Quebec, Germany, and Finland, the icy track sprang up at the base of the cathedral and twisted down the hill towards downtown. Pretty impressive!
While Lindsay has seen previous years, this was my first time witnessing this wild ride. While neither of us are fans of sports or sporting events, the manic nature of the sport of ice cross made it quite a spectacle. On an unseasonably spring-like late February evening, we strolled down Selby towards the cathedral as the various bars and restaurants prepared for the festivities. Local craft beers and snacks were on offer to passerbys along the street; we had some Russian style tea and Russian grog, a cinnamon-infused pear rum drink from Moscow on the Hill. Nothing like walking down the street towards a huge crowd bearing an alcoholic beverage disguised as a hot drink! (Well, it was hot).
We arrived early to get a good spot and the Cathedral Hill neighborhood was already packed, with food trucks offering doughnuts, and plenty of free beef jerky (plus unethical sasquatch abuse) and Red Bull for sale. As the sun sank below the cathedral, the announcers crowed that we were currently standing in the best crowd in the entire world! Debatable, but the crowd was pretty enthusustic! There was a bit of a US versus Canada vibe going on, due to the hosts, one American and one Canadian, and the fight for dominance between local St. Paulite Cameron Naasz and Canadian Scott Croxxall for the men’s title.
Plenty of Canadian flags were on display in the crowd in the slow lead up to the actual beginning of the competitions. Following from the results of the previous day’s time trials, 16 women and 64 men would compete in the years finals on the 27th. Hailing from backgrounds as diverse as hockey, speed skating, and figure skating (are there any other sports involving ice skating?), the groups were raring to tackle the track and the audience was eager to watch them try. Groups of four skaters representing a dozen or so countries launched themselves down the track, careening down the icy slopes hills, jumps, and curves and often falling over (to which the crowd would respond with gasps of awed reverence). Quite breathtaking, really. As befitting a sports event, there was plenty of drinking, screaming, and yelling in the audience and strained interviews from the athletes, but no one seemed to be taking it too seriously. This may have been the reason behind the rather unfortunate choice in musical interludes for the women’s segment, which Lindsay noted with disgust to be The Beastie Boy’s 1986 song “Girls.” Upon the return of the men, the music switched over to Metallica. Yep!
Having seen enough crashes on ice and wintery skating action, we fought our way back through the crowd to escape, pausing to have some delicious honey hot chocolate from Mademoiselle Miel, which really helped to warm us up as the night got a little chilly. Sipping the rich, smooth, warm chocolate, we regarded the fervent shouting of some local street preachers, present to inform the crowds of people eager to watch the icy competition that they were going to hell. Another sign of spring, perhaps? In any case, it was an experience and it might be fun to see it again next year! In the end, the local hero, Cameron Naasz, prevailed, this time.