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Red Bull, competitive snowboarders converge on Duluth park this weekend

13January 2022

DULUTH – It’s been done — shooting through the window of the stone gazebo in one of Duluth’s oldest city parks on a snowboard then dropping more than a dozen feet into packed snow on a steep hill.

But it’s an upper-level trick that can take hours to master, between set-up and pep talks, according to local snowboarders.

Some 40 snowboarders from around the country will get a shot at mastering it, and the Central Hillside site’s other man-made structures, during the Red Bull Heavy Metal Competition on Sunday at Cascade Park. The competition starts at 1 p.m. and is open to spectators. The athletes, some with X-Games medals, will show off their creative takes on the gazebo, the playground, and a long metal railing that bisects the park’s staircase.

This is Brett Stamper’s home park. The member of Damage Boardshop’s snow team has taken on the gazebo — and won. It’s one of the reasons he believes he was invited to the Heavy Metal event, his first competition.

“The aspects, gnarliness, all of it combine — it looks very, very cool and it’s very, very difficult to do,” he said of mastering the trick. “For a rider to go and film and get a clip is huge.

“There’s not a lot going through your head while you’re in the air.”

Just focus, he said, and make sure you get out the window.

This is the first time the national urban snowboarding event has been held since 2003. Duluth was selected to host because it has become a go-to spot for snowboarders who first travel to Minneapolis and St. Paul before heading north, according to competition director Joe Sexton. The park’s man-made and natural features are a draw to the sport’s insiders.

“It’s known within the industry,” he said.

The park is typically the first stop when Benny Milam, a snowboarder from Chisago City, Minn., visits Duluth. Milam won the Rock-A-Rail in Belgium in 2019 and took third at the Winter Dew Tour Streetstyle Jam in 2020. He likes the launch from Cascade Park’s gazebo, the long railing at the base of the park.

He was just on the scene Wednesday making videos, he said.

“For us snowboarders, it’s a dreamland,” according to Milam.

Other top competitors for the event include Zeb Powell, who won a gold medal at the X-Games in 2019, Alexis Roland of Bloomington, Minn., who won the 2021 Dew Tour Women’s Streetstyle competition, and Danyale Patterson of Minneapolis who was featured in Vice magazine.

The competition has a jam format, which means the athlete will spend an hour working through one of the three designated zones. There is no judging criteria for this style of snowboarding, Sexton said, so judges will be looking for style, creativity, execution.

Ultimately, he said, “The people who look the most overall impressive.”

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