Speed Riding from Sports Too Extreme for the Winter Olympics
Sports Too Extreme for the Winter Olympics
A combination of skydiving, downhill skiing and paragliding, sign up for this sport and with skis attached to your feet and a “speedglider” wing as your chute you’ll be dropped at the top of a mountain from an airplane. From there you’ll glide and (literally) fly down the mountain, using your chute to catch air if any obstacles appear in your way. According to World Business, the French Federation has officially recognized speed riding as a sport since 2005 and every April the French National Speed Riding Championships are held in Samoens (a ski resort in the French Alps). François Bon, a founder of the sport according to The Telegraph, insists that the sport is relatively safe because it’s not as dangerous as base jumping. Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean its partakers are any less insane.
With riders reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and heights as high as 130 feet, Snocross (a winter weather version of motor cross performed with snowmobiles) is not only one of the most extreme non-Olympic winter sports, but also one of the most organized. Governed by the World Snowmobile Association, Snocross was first featured in the 1998 winter X Games. Both its participation and following has grown significantly since then and the ISOC hosts a handful of yearly regional and national events. With the organization working hard to ensure “safe, competitive racing for the top athletes and teams in the sport,” perhaps it has a shot at one day being accepted on the Olympic level.
Compared to other extreme winter sports, reindeer racing takes place on a much smaller level, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as crazy and competitive. Popular in Russia, Finland and especially Norway, the theatrical event pairs man and animal for a festive and speedy race down a 201-meter-long snow covered track. In Norway the event is a part of Sami National Day; a celebration of the land's original inhabitants who rely heavily on reindeer for meat, fur, and transportation. This year’s official Reindeer Racing Championships will take place in Tromsø in early February. But if a race against (rather than with) the reindeer sounds even more over-the-top, check out the Running of the Reindeer race—where runners share their race route with herds of horned beasts— held each March in Anchorage, Alaska.
Automobile Ice Racing
This slippery sport is exactly as its name implies; on an ice-covered track, and usually in lightweight, front-wheel-drive cars, drivers put the limits of speed and control to the ultimate test. Mostly a recreational sport, there are no official organizations that represent its interests and events are usually hosted by local clubs like the Michigan Ice Racing Association, so chances are we won’t see sedans sliding around on the ice at the Olympics anytime soon.
By name, this sport sounds seemingly carefree; like a childish game played in a snowstorm. However, what started as an innocent after-work pastime for employees at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico, quickly expanded into a widely-loved, high-speed sport that went on to be a part of the first winter X Games in 1997. One wicked crash was all it took to take it off the roster, though. Angel Fire also ended its yearly shovel racing competitions in 2005 when liability concerns were raised, but the sport, which John Strader (an avid, long-time shovel racer) calls the “poor man’s luge,” made a triumphant comeback in 2010 when Angel Fire re-introduced their world championship competition. The next Shovel Racing World Championships will take place at the resort in February, right around the same time as the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
First introduced in 2000 in Stockholm, this intense ice sport is a race between four hockey-equipped skaters. But with Red Bull involved, obviously it’s no ordinary rink race. Instead, skaters sprint down a bobsled run as they fight to remain upright while clearing obstacles like jumps and ledges. Since the sport’s debut Red Bull has hosted five of their signature “Crashed Ice” world championship events. This year’s tour will hold competitions in Helsinki, Saint Paul, and Moscow, all leading up to the world championships in Quebec City on March 22.
Here’s another sport whose name doesn’t do much justice to just how intense and extreme it actually is. If the term conjures images of leisurely boaters happily paddling along through light, fluffy snow, engage your imagination just a little bit more and picture fearless thrill-seekers setting sail over steep mountain cliffs and racing down 4-cross style tracks instead. A fairly new sport, the second official Snowkayaking World Cup took place in Austria in 2008 and last year Red Bull held a snow kayak race comprised of a custom-made downhill snow track in Estonia. Because waxed boats in contact with snow can reach some pretty substantial speeds, most ski resorts don’t allow the sport. However Mount Monarch in Chaffee County, Colorado openly embraces the exciting activity with their annual Kayaks on Snow event.
Snowkiting is the powder-based equivalent of kitesurfing, except with no water to cushion the blow of a bump or a fall it’s a bit more dangerous, and arguably more extreme. The sport’s official website warns first-timers not to kite near obvious obstacles (like active streets and highways, crowded areas, or railroad tracks) because—quite clearly—such could result in an “undesirable situation.” It also cautions kiters to pay attention to wind speeds, noting that a twofold increase could be “the difference between feeling sporty tension and being dragged (yarded) uncontrollably.” With the potential to reach speeds of more than 50MPH, remaining in control of your kite certainly sounds like a good idea.
Any sport whose main objective involves going as fast as humanly possible definitely deserves the distinction of being dubbed extreme. Speed skiers travel downhill in a straight line, usually reaching speeds of more than 120 miles per hour. Simone Origone holds the current speed skiing world record having reached a mind-blowing 156 miles per hour at Les Arcs in France in 2006. Speed skiing had been featured as demonstration sport at the 1992 Winter Olympics, but after the accidental death (not during competition) of Swiss speed skier Nicholas Bochatay that year the sport has yet to make a return to the Olympic program.
Ski Cliff Jumping
If skiing downhill at unimaginable speeds is extreme, than skiing downhill and jumping over cliffs is just about as batty as it gets. Sure, ski jumping is an official winter sport, but ski cliff jumpers take this sport off the straight track and into the unknown. The current world record for the highest cliff jump on skis is 255 feet and is held by Jamie Pierre, who survived the perilous jump but died tragically in an avalanche in 2011.