There are times when friends ask what I’m doing, I tell them and find myself laughing as they process what I just said:
“Yeah, I’m going to Québec to photograph downhill ice skating.”
I can see the wheels turning. Some of it sounds normal (Québec and ice skating). But what’s that part about downhill? Sounds dangerous.
Again, BLESS YOU Red Bull for sponsoring some wonderful Weird Sports!
Red Bull is the stick that stirs the drink when it comes to Crashed Ice, an international tournament of ice cross downhill, a sport created back in 2001 in silly Sweden.
The tour includes stops in München and Moscow, as well as all across Canada, eh. None of the aforementioned Americans I had talked to about Crashed Ice had ever heard of it. Different story with the Canucks, who simply smiled. Our neighbors to the north know a good thing when they see it.
Québec City once again hosted the Crashed Ice Finals. The course is woven through Vieux Québec, creating a spectacular, surreal backdrop. Four cats go at the same time. Makes for KILLER VIDEO.
I had originally planned to shoot this last year, but I was simply too fried after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver to get my act together. Better to regroup and wait. Stars aligned nicely this year.
I drove up with a friend from NYC, arriving on a Thursday afternoon. Folks were practicing for the first time, gearing up for the semis on Friday. It was a good chance for all of us to get acquainted with the scene.
On Friday night, I successfully tested all that winter gear purchased for rainy Vancouver. Made me smile to see some of Oprah’s Olympic red gloves in attendance (above).
This night, it was extremely manageable to wander around to different vantage points. I was unnecessarily sporting a bright red MEDIA vest. The crowds were solid but not insane, not like in the footage I’d seen. Was totally nuts, though, for the finals on Saturday.
Saturday night, I did something different. Outfitted with a Gigapan, I took a panoramic series from atop a government building near the start of the race. I had scouted the spot a couple days before, and with the help of Pascal and his colleagues, I spent about 45 minutes taking a couple series of photos.
During this time, I was joking with Pascal en français that I would have felt like an ass asking him to stand on the rooftop in freezing weather like this, if it weren’t for the fact that I was sure he was used to it. He smiled. “Yeah, this is normal for us.”
My goal with this Gigapan is to find ways of expanding my Weird Sports coverage. With Old Town Québec in the mix amongst this ginormous course, I thought this would be a good test run.
I do have mixed feelings about this, because it’s takes a lot of time and effort to accomplish one of these suckers, time that I normally spend photographing features. At the same time, I had the full weekend to play around with and tons of opportunity for everything.
Again, this project is a great opportunity for me to get out of Dodge, Oregon and see the world. I’d been to Montréal, but never Québec City.
It is beautiful, the people friendly and in playful moods, way more so than I ever experienced in France.
It was funny trying to speak French with mon accent lyonnais. Often times, folks responded good-naturedly in English. I don’t know if I even understood myself. More than a couple folks were STUNNED that I was an American, since, well, many don’t expect les américains to speak a foreign tongue.
Thanks to everyone involved for your help making this a fun and successful weekend.
À la prochaine fois.