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Ice Cross or Ice Crash?

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Many ice skaters can reach speeds of over 20 miles per hour when in full flight. Double that speed, add twists, turns and four competitors competing at the same time on a closed course, and you get Ice Cross Downhill.

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The sport, which is related to the Olympic slopestyle snowboarding event, is just catching on in the United States, and two members of a Cloquet family are right at the forefront.

Sever and Sadie Lundquist are both former Cloquet-Esko-Carlton hockey players and both have taken to the sport, which is called “Crashed Ice” when its competitions are sponsored by the Red Bull energy drink company.

“It’s a fun sport, the speed is incredible and it’s really never-ending thrills,” Sever Lundquist said.

Sever was first attracted to the sport as a 12-year-old when he saw a demonstration event held at Duluth’s Spirit Mountain.

“I was snowboarding that day and saw this and knew I had to do it,” he said. “But you have to be 18 to take part and so I had to wait.”

The wait was worth it. For the last two years, Sever has taken part in the only race of its type held in the United States, which is in St. Paul. The first time he did it, his sister Sadie watched him.

“I had seen it on the news and I knew lots of people who played hockey did it,” Sadie Lundquist said. “Sever did it and I watched him, and I said ‘as soon as I graduate I’m doing this.’”

Sadie couldn’t compete last year due to being a hockey player at Bemidji State. But when she graduated in May 2013, she took up the sport in a hurry, finishing as the top female qualifier in this year’s first-ever women’s race.

And “hurry” is a good way to describe what goes on.

“In this sport, you have drop offs, step ups, elevation changes and you land on downhill ramps,” Sadie said. “It’s like snowboarding and skiing and there is an element of difficulty.”

Oh, yeah. There are also boards.

“Sometimes you do wipe out,” Sever said. “The best thing about wiping out on ice is that you slide, not grind to a stop like on cement. But sometimes people go down and twist knees and break shoulders because of the boards. It’s hard not to try to catch yourself at 40 miles per hour.”

But, the X-Games-like sport has its appeal.

“You get used to the speed and I love it,” Sever said. “The speed isn’t daunting. I grew up snowboarding and skiing.”

“It isn’t like luge or skeleton where you have turns and a downhill and you’re by yourself,” Sadie said. “But the speed is a thrill. When they showed us the track, you know you’re out of your element but once you get used to it, it’s like second nature.”

But even second nature takes a back seat to safety during a crash.

“I’d say it’s not as dangerous as it looks when you’ve played hockey all your life,” Sadie said. “For an average skater, it’s dangerous, especially when you get four on the track. Then if someone takes you out, you can be SOL.”

The men’s sport is much bigger in Europe than it is in the United States.

“It’s been a sport in Finland and Russia for years,” Sever said. “I raced against a guy nicknamed ‘Big Papi’ and he was 45 years old from Switzerland. In Finland they have permanent tracks and guys race all winter. They have people who have been racing for 10-15 years there, whereas in America we have a bunch of young, quick dudes who are just starting (the sport).”

The St. Paul race is the only race of its kind in the United States, but can lead to bigger and better things for top finishers.

“The top six Americans get to go race on other courses in Canada and Europe,” Sever said. “That didn’t work out for me this year but I’m going to keep at it. You’d get to meet people from all over the world and see a lot of places.”

The Mont du Lac ski hill near Superior held its own race this year as well — both Lundquists as well as former CEC hockey player Zack Johnson competed in the ski hill’s inaugaral event.

Sever said he likes racing with Sadie as a brother-sister combination.

“It’s great to have Sadie involved,” Sever said. “When she was the top qualifier people approached us and told us we were the first brother and sister to race.”

For Sadie, the family connection is important but so is the chance to keep competing in a sport after college.

“It gives me the feeling of competing again and being nervous,” she said.  “All eyes are on you again and the girls I raced with were a lot of fun because they were all hockey players. I get to compete again and being on the ice is always good.”

Sever Lundquist has taken his own steps to keep growing the sport.  Working with Mike O’Hara at Mont du Lac, the two built what is believed to be the first season-long permanent course in the United States.

“We built our own track,” Sever said. “It’s the first one of its kind and we’re going to keep doing it.”