I spent a random January weekend in Duluth, Minnesota last year. I’d never been, but it took me exactly one walk through the tiny, but well-known, lakeside city to see how freestyle snowboarding (and skateboarding) had thrived there.
Geographically, the famous Cascade Park is the ideal place for impromptu sessions. It was built on a hill overlooking Lake Superior and when enough snow blankets the park, the massive kink rail at the base of the park and the famous bell tower that opens up over a hill invite the antsy rider to send it. Meanwhile, nearby Spirit Mountain is your quintessential small resort equipped with a bonafide tow rope for park rats and runs that couldn’t take more than four minutes from the moment you jump off the chair to the moment you’re right back in line at the bottom of the hill. Backcountry powder days aren’t a thing here, so a healthy freestyle scene took hold decades ago.
Now, pick out a Sunday afternoon in January, add a little bit of the local community’s midwest charm, invite a few athletes out to Cascade Park, and watch what seems like the entire city show up in snowboots and down jackets – and skip a 49ers-Cowboys NFL Wildcard game. That was the recipe for last year’s Red Bull Heavy Metal, which was way less “competition” than it was a bonafide celebration of midwest freestyle history and style.
The 2022 edition of the old event was the first to follow a two-decade hiatus. It was a big enough success that a 2023 event is now set for February 11 at Detroit’s Hart Plaza, another iconic spot ripe with history and a long resume of film cameos. The contest will be held in three separate zones at the park: a 20-foot wall Scott Blum handplanted in 2016’s ‘The SNOWBOARDER Movie’, another kink rail, and a 50-foot down rail running the length of the stairs of the Hart Plaza Amphitheater. It will feature 40 different riders from around the world taking over the park for another super session celebrating freestyle snowboarding at its best.