A competition Saturday evening marks the first-ever event of its kind in Eastern Canada — four competitors at a time plummet down a ski hill and through an obstacle course on snow skates.
The skates are made by the company Sled Dogs, which brands its competitive events “Bone Fights.”
“Our target group is hockey people which fits very well for Canada,” said Sled Dog CEO, Tommy Syversen. The sport originated in Norway and the company has built a following across Europe.
“We also have inline skaters and total beginners. A lot of people who are a bit afraid to go to the slope and feel it’s scary.”
The equipment looks like a traditional ski boot, with a flat, short ski attached. The base’s steel edges help the athlete keep control when riding the hill.
“These are skates on snow,” said Syversen.
The race has attracted dozens of local athletes from New Brunswick. The sport is in the same vein as the popular Red Bull Crashed Ice races across the country.
‘Some people find us crazy’
First-time competitor Samuel Nadeau, 21, is hoping to make his mark during the race Saturday evening, and build on his success at the Riders Cup downhill skating events held in Bathurst every year.
“Some people find us crazy, don’t know what it is, some people look at us awkwardly, and some people just admire us because it’s a new sport. It’s different,” said Nadeau.
He hopes to challenge reigning world champion Luca Dallago, of Austria. Dallago’s brother and travel partner Marco was the 2014 Crashed Ice World Champion.
Nadeau has a good chance of racing head-to-head with one of the renowned brothers. He also said there is a risk of crashing.
Not sure exactly what a “sled dog” snow skate is? Let’s let the CEO (and athletes) explain pic.twitter.com/HSV5e2lDgO
“You can’t choose the lane you’re going to race in. In the qualifications you always choose the perfect lines but when you’re four you don’t have that choice,” he said.
“There are some collisions but they’re not too bad. It’s not NASCAR.”
The competitors are fighting for an expensive “bone” – thousands of Euros in prize money, distributed between the top three male and female finishers.
Event will continue in 2018
Tommy Syversen says there is “no question” that the Bone Fight will come back to Atholville. The Northern New Brunswick ski hill will be integral in growing the European sport in Canada, as one of the first host sites.
“They did a race in Western Canada and I reached out to them and said we can do something better here in New Brunswick,” said organizer and Collège Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) communications director, Bruno Richard.
“I tried to find a hill and a CCNB which would be interested in hosting this. And here we are at Sugarlof Park.”
Richard, an integral part of the organization of Bathurst’s Riders Cup events, is also a Crashed Ice competitor, and will compete in the Bone Fight.
“It’s the same thing but on snow. And we have snow skates. They’ve only been in Canada a few years,” said Richard.
“We have a woman from France competing, and a lot of athletes from Quebec.”
The main event at 7p.m. Saturday features the top 32 men and top 16 women racing four at a time. The top two from each race advance, while the third and fourth finishers are eliminated.