The Winter Olympics Need Some Crashed Ice

photo: Bayo Olukotun

The 2018 Winter Olympics just concluded, meaning the world will wait another four years to observe some obscure frozen water sports. As enjoyable as luge, figure-skating and curling can be to watch, there is an overriding sense of stagnation with the Winter O’s and Red Bull Crashed Ice just may have the cure for those cold weather woes.

Sure, the Pyeongchang games were probably the most diverse Winter Olympics in history, with athletes from 91 countries on four continents (including seven African nations) plus Oceania. However, the mixture of sports themselves simply does not compare to those of the Summer Olympics. Granted, there are only so many things one can do on ice or snow, but it’s surely a broader spectrum than what was displayed in South Korea.

The newest discipline to be added to the Winter Games was snowboarding 20 years ago in Nagano, Japan. Since then, new sports within many mediums have been added, including five new categories for this year’s event. But are they entirely new sports? No. Just rehashed versions of the same things we’ve been watching for decades.

Hey, NBC and International Olympic Committee: Do you want to keep viewers viewing? Then keep things fresh and pay attention to the changing times. If you do, you will see that Ice Cross Downhill is the best thing to happen to water since zero degrees Celsius.

I recently had the chance to attend Red Bull Crashed Ice in St. Paul, Minnesota, which served as the third round of the Ice Cross Downhill World Championships. There I witnessed what should be the future of the Winter Olympics. A sport that’s part hockey, part luge, part BMX and all adrenaline. Ice cross downhill draws the in audience in a way I have never witnessed, and holds their attention because of the obstacles, contact, and second-by-second lead changes. What’s more, the organizers of the series are taking the steps required by the IOC to become an official Olympic sport, by creating national and international sanctioning organizations.

What the hell is Ice Cross Downhill?

photo: Bayo Olukotun

If you are at all familiar with motocross, then you will understand the basic concept of ice cross. An even closer comparison for the purposes of this article would be BMX (bicycle motocross), which had its Olympic debut back in 2008: A gravity assisted, single lap racing event that pits multiple riders against each other on a track with various jumps and turns. Ice cross is very similar, only athletes obviously compete on ice and with hockey skates rather than on dirt with a bicycle. There are similar winter events for skiing (ski cross) and snowboarding (you guessed it: snowboard cross), but the tighter confines of ice cross downhill, and Red Bull Crashed Ice in particular, make this sport an unforgettable viewing experience.

Same Old

Among the list of proposed new sports for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are…well, nothing too excting. Some synchronized figure skating, a few new luge events, nordic combined…sorry, am I losing your attention? Not my fault. Reiterating the same sports over and over again is not going to keep millennials’ notoriously short attention spans.

Of course, the ironic part is that few of those millennials likely even made it to this point in the article. So I guess this argument is for those old establishment fuddyduddies in charge and making all of the decisions to keep interest in the Winter O’s limited. Okay, y’all killed it with those 2018 closing ceremonies. I mean, that 13 year-old rocker paired with a hundred geomungo players and Jambinai (who looked like they just stepped out of the Matrix and are definitely my new favorite band)…just, wow.

But I digress. It’s time to spice things up in the Frigid Olympics, and Ice Cross Downhill just might be the answer. Here’s why:

Ice Cross Downhill Download

CROWDS: The four rounds of Red Bull Crashed Ice, which runs in a more compact format than the other Ice Cross Downhill championship rounds, are an intimate affair that boast crowds of well over 100,000. Thanks to the good-natured atmosphere, fans get right up against the boards as athletes fly by.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

ACTION: A massive downhill start, turns, big air and occasional contact are all part of Ice Cross. The combination makes for a heart-thumping minute-long sprint where anything can and does happen.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

FAMILIARITY: Sure, most of the competitors wear some hockey equipment, but that is really where the similarities end. Still, the familiar look should make those aforementioned old fuddyduddies comfortable.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

CROSSOVER: Most of the current crop of stars actually use inline skating parks for training, since anything other than perfectly flat ice is hard to come by away from the events themselves. Many of the techniques, though, come from boardercross, BMX and motocross.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

PROOF OF CONCEPT: Red Bull Crashed Ice has shown that this sport is ready for an even bigger stage. Their build out in St. Paul was nothing short of impressive and beautiful. What’s more, it was right in the heart of the city. Imagine what could be done with some Olympic and Chinese funds in the heart of Beijing…

photo: Bayo Olukotun

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: The women’s championship has been going for the last three seasons, and has proven to be just as popular and exciting as the men’s series.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

STORYLINES: Media outlets that cover Olympic sports love their compelling storylines. Fortunately Ice Cross has that in spades. As a relatively new sport, there isn’t a single athlete that can live exclusively off of the racing itself. Many have regular jobs including the Women’s victor in Minnesota, Amanda Trunzo, who is a full-time school teacher yet still manages to train six days per week and attends every round of the championship.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

ACCESSIBILITY: While Ice Cross Downhill literally started the way it sounds (iced over courses set on a hill or mountain), Red Bull Crashed Ice can be constructed just about anywhere with a decent grade and moderately cold temps in the winter (there was a round held in Marseille, France just last month).

photo: Bayo Olukotun

EXCELLENT REPLAYS: Slo-mo fans delight, the replays for ice cross are epic. With last-second lead changes, big air, flailing and sometimes styling moves, and some painful crashes, there’s plenty of action for the highlight reels. Move over Lindsey Vonn and Apollo Ono, there are some new stars coming for you.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

INTERNATIONAL: Naturally with winter sports you get a lot of athletes from, well, places with real winters. Thus, ice cross has its share of racers from the US, Canada and Europe. However, thanks to the crossover nature of the sport, new athletes could make the transition from other action sports like inline skating and BMX.

photo: Bayo Olukotun

Learn more about Red Bull Crashed Ice right here.

Give Bayo Olukotun a follow on Instagram and Twitter!

Freelance photographer/writer. Published on Huffington Post, and more. Loves coffee, dirt bikes and beer but is perplexed by the IPA craze.

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