Crashed Ice has sparked my curiosity for years. The speed and grace of hockey, the agility of ski cross, and the obstacle course like adrenaline rush you would only expect to find in a military training facility. Quebec City was no fluke choice destination for this event, it’s narrow streets and steep hills make it seem like this was what it was built for. Crashed Ice has been on my bucket list for what seems like forever.
My younger sister and I joked (albeit terribly) about “crashing” Crashed Ice; however, it wasn’t until we figured out that this is likely going to be the last year we’ll both be in eastern Canada that we decided to make it happen. We hopped on a bus full of University students from all over Nova Scotia and made the pilgrimage to see the insanity with our own eyes.
Arriving in Quebec City was a breath of fresh air, and trust me, we needed it after that bus ride. It’s my experience that people tend to spoil, much like meat kept out of the refrigerator, after about 8 hours. Thankfully showers have the uncanny ability of washing off the miles from a 12 hour bus trip, and after a soak, a scrub, and downing one of the complimentary Red Bulls, I was ready to see the course.
Crashed Ice Starting line
It was a short walk between the Delta Hotel and Le Château Frontenac, a magnificant hotel that opened in 1893 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Le Château Frontenac is apparently the “most photographed hotel in North America”, but this weekend most seemed to be referring to it simply as “The Starting Line”. Situated at the base of Le Château Frontenac was the Crashed Ice Start platform that would propel equipped skaters, both male and female, along a 580 meter (0.58 km) long urban track.
The Crashed Ice Course
The 2012 Crashed Ice course is roughly 4.5 meters (14.7 feet) wide. Combined with its 60 meter vertical and a length of 580 meters, the ice track requires skaters to plan their path wisely. As the whistle blows, skaters stride down Rue du Fort where they will come across the front of the Post Office. They’ll then come across a new addition this year, the 360 degree turn, right before arriving at what everyone is calling “The Splitter”. A 30 meter section of the course where skaters will be forced to pick sides. Fast & tight, or slow & wide. Once they survive “The Splitter” they’ll have the beauty of the Saint Lawrence in sigh, and it will be a fast sprint down “The Royal Corridor” where they’ll hit the final “Victory Turn” and race for the finish line at “Place de Paris”.
Trois, Deux, Un
Our small group gathered along the boards of the course. The air was heavy in excitement as music and loud cheers were erupting from the growing crowd. The lights seemed to dim, as the announcer counted down the next race in one of the most powerful and inviting of french accents. The crowd exploded in cheers, my head was on a fast swivel as I watched skaters tear through ice, pushing every extra ounce of speed out of their trajectory. The sound of blades slicing through the rock hard ice sent shivers down my spine. The only logical thing to do was scream and hollar with the rest of the 105,000+ attendees.
I proceeded to wander and get as many photos from alternative angles. Unfortunately navigating through the crowd was like crossing a river full of hungry piranahs. Nobody wanted to give up their spot, and everybody was craving a better view of the event. I used my best “Je m’excuse“, holding my camera above the heads of the crowd to snap blindly. I managed to find a few clearings throughout the track, which allowed for some incredible photo ops, along with a couple convorsations with spectators. Some were drunk, some were high, some were confused as to what was going on and just followed the crowd, and others were simply too french for me to understand. Whatever their case was, they were all smiling and enjoying the sights. There was no shortage of high fives that’s for sure.
Ice Cold – Require Beer
As the hours flew by in excitement, toes began transforming into ice. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one feeling the cold. I found my younger sister and a couple of her friends and we proceeded to search for beer. We knew it had to be near the crowds somewhere. This was after all Quebec City, hands down the most “European” Canadian city in terms of liberties. We saw a group drinking beer out of plastic cups and proceeded to ask them “Ou est la bierre?!“, they said something I didn’t quite understand, but followed it by a solid smile and a point in the right direction.
We followed the Crashed Ice track down, took the occasional side street to sneak by condensed groups that didn’t appear to be moving. Then finally, we came upon the finish line at “Place de Paris”. Greeted by lights, a couple of awesome french DJ’s, and a huge crowd of people. All of which had at least one beer in their hand. We made it! The beer warmed our spirits, which in turn allowed us to forget about our numbing feet.
As we overlooked this great walled Canadian city, chalk full of life, lights, culture, and people from all over the world, I couldn’t help but smile. Quebec City, one of Canada’s oldest city’s is in bed with one of the worlds newest sports, and it couldn’t be more beautiful. The downtown lights and coloured stage lights add an eerie glow to the gothic features of the castle like city. It’s hard not to take photos!
Merci Beaucoup Quebec
Looking up at Quebec City from the bottom of the Crashed Ice course, it was clear to me that this city is something special to Canada. It’s a piece of beautiful difference lined with cobblestone, and spoken almost entirely in french. Quebec is one of those locations where assuming everyone speaks even a bit of english is seen as foolish. While the language barrier can make simple things take an extra minute or two, ultimately everyone in this city is happy to help, even if that means you have to speak in “bastardized” french.
As the final races finished, party’s erupted across Quebec City. Beer was consumed in honour of Saint Patrick, in honour of the winners, the losers, the french, the english, and the beautiful city that graciously hosts this event year. Red Bull Crashed Ice is one of those events that words can only do so much to describe. Next March, pack your bags and see it for yourself!
Video of 2012 Crashed Ice in Quebec City