LACONIA — Fans of Winter Olympics event ski cross or snowboard cross might see something familiar in Red Bull’s Crashed Ice event. However, instead of groups of skiers or snowboards racing shoulder-to-shoulder down a course made of snow, the Crashed Ice course is made of ice and the participants wear skates and hockey gear as they navigate the drops, jumps and corners at up to 50 miles per hour.
On Saturday, Laconian Thomas Missert was at Loon Mountain, hoping to be the fastest skater to make his way down a 600-foot course. If he succeeds, he will win a wildcard entry into the Feb. 8 and 9 event, when the Crashed Ice tour stops at Fenway Park.
Missert, a 25-year-old photographer who first moved to Laconia when he was in elementary school, is no stranger to ice. He played hockey for the Laconia Leafs when he was a teenager, then played for a junior hockey league in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, for a couple of years. He can operate a Zamboni, and he continues to play in the Monday night men’s league at the Merrill Fay Ice Arena.
Crashed Ice is still gaining popularity, but it’s been around since 2001. Missert has known about the sport for many years.
“I played up in Canada when I was a kid, it was just starting then… and I have always watched it since then,” he said. It’s a compelling sport to watch. Skaters, usually four at a time, shoot out of the starting gate and drop down a steep hill to gain speed, then jockey for position as they clear jumps, take sharp corners, try to stay on their skates and be the first one to cross the finish line.
Missert, a skier and snowboarder, knows some of the people who work behind the scenes for Red Bull, and follows some professional Crashed Ice athletes on social media. When he heard that there would be three open tryouts held in the Northeast, he figured he might have a chance to make the cut.
Missert attended a tryout held Dec. 2 at a rink in Boston. Individual skaters were timed completing an obstacle course, with the fastest eight men and women advancing to the final tryout, held Saturday at Loon. Of the 44 men who completed the course, Missert’s time of 21.25 seconds, less than a second from the top finisher, was good for fourth place.
He’s been hitting the gym hard since then, and feels he is in much better shape now than he was a month ago. But that was flat ice, he’s never gone downhill on skates before.
“It’s going to be pretty intense,” he said. Missert and all 23 of the other competitors will get a couple of practice runs, then they will try to finish the course faster than anyone else.
Missert has studied the bios of current professional Crashed Ice athletes, and he shares the same type of background.
“I think I’ve got a good shot,” he said. “I really want to win because I’m a local, I know the Loon scene.”
But he’ll still be thrilled if he comes in second or third, because then he would be given a V.I.P. pass to attend the Fenway event as a spectator. And he would bring his camera, since he would love to become a photographer for Red Bull, which sponsors extreme sports teams in everything from automotive rallies to mountain biking to downhill skiing.
“It’s a dream of mine,” he said. “(That’s) my number one reason for trying out for it, I’m going to be in front of all these guys in the Red Bull production (team).”