Let it snowmobile ... at Wrigley Field

What's 450 pounds and flips out at Wrigley? No, not Carlos Zambrano

November 03, 2011|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

The home of the boys of summer is about to be invaded by the stuntmen of winter.

Wrigley Field normally is under wraps this time of year, but it's the site for Saturday's Red Bull Fuel + Fury, a freestyle snowmobiling competition featuring eight of the world's top snowmobilers. The lineup of competitors consists of Daniel Bodin, Heath Frisby, Ted Culbertson, Fred Rasmussen, Cory Davis, Jimmy Fejas and Jeff Mullin and 2004 Fuel + Fury winner Justin Hoyer.

There are plenty of Chicagoans who might not know a Ski-Doo from Scooby Doo, but it's an easy sport to follow, said Levi LaVallee, a seven-time Winter X Games medalist and host of the event.

"It's not much different than freestyle motocross, where you're trying to impress judges with stunts and jumps," he said. "The big difference is that instead of 250-pound machines with wheels, you're on a bigger, 450-pound sled."

Bodin, the 2011 Winter X Games freestyle snowmobile gold medalist, said the jumps are the most fun part of the sport.

"From the takeoff to the landing, you do lots of crazy tricks and when you're in the air on a sled, it's a pretty amazing feeling, like you're weightless in space and doing whatever you want," he said.

Bodin and the other snowmobilers will have plenty of hangtime on the custom-made Wrigley course, which will consist of thousands of cubic yards of wood chips and dirt, and three steel ramps for snowmobiles to launch from. The one element that will be missing: the white powdery stuff.

"The weather is still pretty warm and there's no actual snow, so we're using Astroturf, which is nice because it always stays pretty consistent," LaVallee said.

Saturday's competition is set up as a double elimination bracket challenge in which two athletes will compete head to head, with one advancing to the winner's bracket as selected by five judges. The loser will hit the consolation bracket for a chance to climb back into the championship match.

People who have never seen freestyle snowmobiling will be surprised at some of the tricks the riders can pull off, LaVallee said.

"The top guys will be doing backflip combinations, seat grabs, Superman flips and stuff like that. Cordova flips. They're really tricky and really tough, but once the adrenaline comes pumping I think you'll see a lot of cool stuff," he said.

"The sport is growing so fast, so to win you got to do something crazy; something people have never done before," Bodin said.

A native of Sweden, Bodin said he picked up the sport because his country has six months of winter and he wanted something fun to do. Now he's in love with it and thinks this Fuel + Fury event may make plenty of new fans of snowmobiling in Chicago.

"People may have seen it on TV, but it doesn't show how crazy it is," he said. "When you see it live, you'll be like 'Oh my god.'"

The Fuel + Fury event takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday and admission is free.

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.

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