For most people normal winter sports like ice skating, skiing, or snowboarding provide enough excitement. However, for a select few adventurous souls, those are not sufficient. They prefer to take advantage of the abundant snow and ice with 'sports' that range from heart-stopping to downright hilarious.
Ice Car Racing
From January to March the temperature in Minnesota often dips down to a bone-chilling -40°F. But instead of hibernating, residents of the Midwestern state strap on their seat belts and head over to the area's frozen lakes that double up as racetracks to showcase their driving skills. What's interesting is that the cars used are not high-speed modified vehicles - Just standard sedans that have been fitted with studded tires to ensure traction on the slippery ice.
The races that are organized once the ice layer is at least 18-inches thick, begin around noon. After a few warm up laps, a volunteer waves the flag to signal the start. A maximum of ten cars at a time race to complete the requisite laps in the fastest time possible. The top three winners of each heat are allowed to participate in the final that entails completing 15 laps.
With multiple cars zipping around at speeds of 100mph one would assume that collisions are a way of life at these races. Turns out that is not the case. While there have been minor accidents, the bigger hazard is the flying snow dust. To minimize its impact, all cars are outfitted with LED lights and mudflaps.
Though most of the events are organized by the International Ice Racing Association, there are numerous smaller 'unofficial' competitions as well. These are the ones that have captured the attention of photographers Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber. The Minneapolis couple who stumbled upon one accidentally three years ago, are now avid fans and have filmed a series of amazing photographs to share their passion with the world. Called Frozen Speed, the vivid images showcase the thrill and excitement of ice car racing for those that are not willing or able to participate.
Minnesota is not the only state to host ice car racing events. The sport is also popular in New York, Alaska, as well as the many Canadian provinces and even some parts of the United Kingdom and France.
If Ice Car Racing is not thrilling enough, you may want to consider 'Outhouse Racing.' The event, which takes place annually on the third Saturday of January was started by the residents of Conconully, Washington, 33 years ago.
As the name indicates, the competition entails building and racing outhouses. While the designs can vary, they must all be made of wood, have 3-sides including a full roof, measure 5' high and most importantly have room for a toilet seat and toilet paper hanger. Each team comprises of three members - Two to push the outhouses that are mounted on a pair a skies and one to sit inside as they race it down the snow-filled street.
To ensure everyone has a fair chance of winning, contestants have several categories to choose from. There are competitions for seniors, adults (both men and women), teens and even kids. For those looking for an extra challenge, there is also one that includes an obstacle course! Not surprisingly, this fun event which took place on January 16 this year, attracts hundreds of people from all over Washington and other parts of the country.
Though racing down a ski slope perched upon a snow shovel may not seem like the smartest thing to do, it is apparently quite popular among thrill seekers. The idea can be credited to ski resort workers in New Mexico who used their shovels as sleds to get around faster. Shovel racing became so popular in the 1990's that it was even included at the 1997 Winter X-Games. However, after a competitor using a modified shovel got injured, the race was banned.
Since then, the biggest event for shovel race enthusiasts is the annual World Championships at the Angel Fire Resort in Angel Fire, New Mexico. This year's competition, which takes place on February 6 will allow competitors of all ages and skill levels to showcase their shovel racing skills. However, thanks to past injuries, modified shovels are prohibited, and all contestants are required to wear helmets.
If none of the above appeal to you there is ice diving, ice surfing, ice climbing and the list goes on.
Resources: cocuntully.com,extremesports.com,wired.com, wikipedia.org, angelfireresort.com. Photos courtesy of ackermangruber.com/frozenspeed, coconully.com,youtube.com,