U students brave Crashed Ice course that drew 80,000 to St. Paul

At the Crashed Ice World Championship, ice cross skaters raced down a track involving sharp turns and drops.

University of Minnesota journalism junior Mike Slator falls at the start of an elimination round during the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship on Friday in St. Paul.

University of Minnesota journalism junior Mike Slator falls at the start of an elimination round during the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship on Friday in St. Paul.

Kevin Burbach

Mike Slator stood atop a mountain of ice that wound itself through the hills of St. Paul on Friday night.

Thousands of people stood waiting in the crowd. Cameras flashed; his legs were rubber.

The gates opened and Slator dropped into the ice track.

The University of Minnesota junior was skating at the first stop of this yearâÄôs Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

But Slator slipped on the opening slope and fell behind his international competitors, forcing him to play catch up for the rest of the race. He didnâÄôt advance to the next round.

Crashed Ice came to St. Paul for the weekend and brought with it skaters from around the world to compete in ice cross âÄî a dangerous sport consisting of downhill ice skating at high speeds.

Launched in 2001, Crashed Ice is a four-man ice cross race. Known internationally and emerging in the U.S., the event enlists any who are up to the challenge âÄî including two University students.

Slator, a high-school hockey player and a White Bear Lake native, said, âÄúItâÄôs nothing like IâÄôve ever done in hockey before.âÄù

University senior and SlatorâÄôs intramural hockey teammate Tanner Bowell skated Thursday, but said he messed up at the end of his run, missing qualification by less than two seconds.

Both students said identical statements after the race.

âÄúIt was one of the best experiences of my life.âÄù

If either University student wouldâÄôve placed in the top four during the weekend, they would have been offered a spot on Team USA.

For the coach of the team, itâÄôs a return to home territory. Edina-native Charlie Wasley played four years for the Gophers hockey team in the mid-1990s.

After college, Wasley dabbled in amateur ice hockey and roller hockey before getting his first taste of ice cross in 2003 when the tour stopped in Duluth.

That initial taste was all he needed. Wasley stuck with the sport ever since, and after competing for years, he now trains others to do the same.

Wasley said he has a love affair with the burgeoning sport.

âÄúItâÄôs a major adrenaline rush. I thought playing at Mariucci Arena was big. ThatâÄôs nothing compared to this.âÄù

Although no Americans finished in the top 10 Saturday in the finals, Red Bull estimated 80,000 people showed up to watch the spectacle. Wasley said itâÄôs growing rapidly in popularity.

He said he hopes itâÄôll be an Olympic sport one day.

âÄúItâÄôs an amazing experience,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs awesome to be a part of.âÄù