Parasport prohibits skis to touch the ground

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    By Craig Kartchner

    Hurling oneself out of a helicopter at 4,500 feet with skis and poles flailing, sounds like an activity only intoxicated daredevils would attempt.

    But Red Bull, a non-alcoholic beverage, is the only drink involved in this event the company is sponsoring this weekend, March 22-23, at Elk Meadows Ski Resort in Beaver, Beaver Co.

    Blade Raid is a combination of parachuting and Giant Slalom where competitors hurtle themselves at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour down a snowy slope to grab a $12,000 first prize purse.

    The athletes jump out of the chopper in 30 second intervals, nose dive to the mountain peak, and maneuver themselves with high-tech chutes and body contortions through airblades (15-foot tall gates), said Justine Mittelman, director of communications of Red Bull.

    “The sport takes a three-dimensional approach to alpine skiing,” said Matt Wetzel, an avid fan of parasports from Salt Lake.

    Reg Eastaugh, event coordinator, said each competitor takes four runs and is judged on speed and accuracy by seven judges.

    Athletes must not break a 15-foot ceiling, but are also prohibited from allowing their skis to touch the ground, he said.

    Jim Slaton, organizer of the Para-Performance Pro Blade Association, said although the event is Elk Meadow”s first of its kind, organized high-performance parasports have existed for about five years.

    It was spawned by military parachutists seeking recreation, and has blossomed to an international activity enjoyed by thousands, he said.

    Eastaugh said the 25 competitors at “Blade Raid” have over 4,000 parachuting jumps under their belts, and come from as far as Brazil and South Africa.

    “This event is at the top of the pile, so to speak,” he said, referring to the Para-Performance Pro Blade Summer Circuit.

    “Blade Raid” will be held March 22-23 at Elk Meadows, approximately 19 miles east of Beaver, four hours south of Provo.

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