Red Bull Crashed Ice track to be longer, faster for Edmonton's 2018 race

The 2018 Red Bull Crashed Ice race in Edmonton is expected to be bigger and better than the version three years ago. More than 175 construction workers have been busy getting the track ready for the last month.

Races are set for the weekend of March 9-10

Event producer Patrice Drouin describes the course which ice skaters will fly down in this year's Crashed Ice event. 1:12

More than 175 workers have been working for the last month in Edmonton's river valley to prepare the track for the upcoming Red Bull Crashed Ice season finale.

The company doing the work, Gestev, produces races for Red Bull across Canada, and has built tracks in Ottawa, Niagara Falls and Quebec City.   

This is the first time they've built a track in Edmonton.

"It will be a very challenging course and race, as you can imagine," said company president Patrice Drouin.

A team of 24 ice makers will take six days to make the ice on the track, which will be from eight to 11 centimetres thick.
The view from where Red Bull skaters will drop down into the race track.

"We do 11 centimetres of ice," Drouin said. "We can't go more than that, because we lose connection with the cooling system underneath if we put too much ice. Then the ice breaks."

Big bridge for skaters 

In 2015, the last time the race was held in Edmonton, the track started on the west side of the Shaw Conference Centre and incorporated the stairs around the centre as well as the pedestrian bridge that crosses Grierson Hill Road.

This time around, the track will start east of the conference centre just off of Jasper Avenue and 96th Street. The track will cross Grierson Hill Road on a specially made bridge that required nearly a dozen heavy steel beams to support the ice and the racers.

"This is one of the longest bridges we've ever built for Crashed Ice," said Drouin.

In all, crews will used 360,000 pounds of scaffoldings. About 40 per cent of the track will be on scaffoldings, while the rest will be on natural terrain.

The track will be 455-metres long, 35 metres longer than in 2015. There will also be a vertical drop of 40 metres, meaning the track will propel skaters through the course much faster.  

New this year is a feature called the Canadian Big Air, a section of track expected to produce jaw-dropping jumps.
Patrice Drouin is the president Gestev, the company building the Edmonton Red Bull Crashed Ice race track.

Organizers say if the conditions are right, with the temperature hovering right around 0 C, fans could see racers break the world record for the longest jump, which was set in Munich in 2016 by American Troy Merz, who jumped 27 metres.

Huge jump

"I think it's going to be fast and a lot of air time," Drouin said of the track. "They are practising for this. We're pretty sure we will reach that level of jump ... 30 metres."

And once the skaters land that jump, a new twist in the racetrack for 2018 will be the 180-degree BF Goodrich Traction Corner, where skaters will have to come to a virtual standstill. From there the track will wind its way down toward the North Saskatchewan River and the finish line.

Racers are coming from 20 different countries, and will start arriving early next week to test out the track.

The real racing goes on March 9 and March 10.
The Red Bull finish line near the North Saskatchewan River.