Utah Olympic Park hosts Red Bull 400 on Saturday
It’s hard to drive through Park City and not see the sights of Utah Olympic Park. The historic venue is home to six Nordic ski jumps, where Olympians and skiers have practiced and competed ever since it was built for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
It’s common to see these athletes go down the jump time and time again, which, to some, is crazy enough in its own right. But have you ever given thought to running up one of these ski jumps? That’s exactly what 650 competitors will be doing on Saturday morning for the Red Bull 400 event, the steepest 400-meter race in the world.
While 400 meters may not seem like much (one lap on a regulation track) for anyone, let alone Olympic and professional athletes, this race will start at the bottom of the K120 ski jump at Olympic Park as runners make their way towards the top. It contains a 37-degree incline and, at times, it will be necessary for the competitors to use netted ropes that are in place in order to continue their climb.
There are two different types of races: a full-solo race (male and female) and a coed relay, in which four runners run 100 meters each.
“People looking to really challenge themselves physically, I think, it’s an amazing event and truly one of a kind,” said Melanie Welch, marketing manager at Olympic Park. “There’s not that many Nordic ski jumps around the world, let alone, in the Unites States. It’s a really cool experience for people to race up a ski jump.”
The first Red Bull 400 took place back in 2011, but it didn’t make its way to the United States until last year. Red Bull travels all over Europe and North America for this event, making its way through places like Whistler, Harrachov and Planica. Park City, the final destination of the tour, is the only stop in America as one of just a handful of places in the country that boast a ski jump.
All of the races stick to the 400-meter mark in each city, but thanks to its starting elevation of 6,870 feet, Park City might be the hardest of them all.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Welch said. “You can tell it’s a grueling race and that’s what makes it such a cool race. You can tell from the competitors’ expression that it is not an easy feat. You can really tell when they get to the top.”
There is a wide range of ability between the competitors in the race, as last year saw a number of Olympians participate. Welch expects the same this year, as well as some other daring athletes such as 2014 Crossfit Games Champion Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet and big-mountain freeskier Johnny Collinson.
While many professional athletes will take part in the race, it was open (the race is sold out, according to Welch) to anyone at least 16 years of age and willing to pay the race fee. There are even a high number of participants expected to make their way to Park City from out of state, or even out of country, in order to compete.
“It’s definitely not your average race participant,” Welch said. “We’ve got a lot of them coming from out of town. When you look at the breakdown of home towns, there are a lot from out of state, which is really cool.”
What makes the event even more special is that all the proceeds will be going to the Park City Nordic Ski Club. Red Bull teams up to raise these funds for the group, which uses these exact jumps to regularly practice.
So whether you are daring enough to run in the race, supporting someone that is participating or just want to watch people suffer through possibly the most challenging 400-meter race ever, the Red Bull 400 event might be for you. With the stairs along the side of the jump being open to spectators, not to mention the event being free (there will be plenty of food and drinks for purchase), the event is extremely spectator-friendly, but more importantly, entertaining.
“I think for spectators, it’s really just to see what people are doing. It’s a really cool thing to just come out and watch,” Welch said. “Some of the athletes do have followers and fans and they’ll come out and cheer them on, but I think it’s moreso just the overall style of the race is such a cool race, it draws people to come watch.”
Registration for the event opens at 8 a.m., while heats for the race will start at 10:15 a.m.
The lift, called Over and Out, will pick up guests near the base of the Tombstone Express lift and drop them off near the top of Sunrise lift, allowing skiers to more easily descend into Canyons Village.