Red Bull Heavy Metal 2024

Counterculture Storms Center Stage

It’s midday with temps in the mid-30s in Minnesota, warmer than usual for mid-February in the Midwest. A group of some of the world’s best street snowboarders stand together atop a ribbon of snow leading into a jump built on the deck of the State Capitol in St. Paul. They take turns hitting the kicker which sends them into a carefully constructed landing surrounded by a wall of well over a thousand cheering fans. Later today they’ll session handrails set up directly on the 129-year-old government building’s front staircase. For obvious reasons these spots would generally be off limits to snowboarding, but today the city’s mayor is in on the madness. Hell, even Minnesota Governor Tim Walz approved of this session. According to the official proclamation he signed and read aloud yesterday afternoon, February 10, 2024 will hereby be known as Red Bull Heavy Metal Day.

ABOVE Irie Jefferson spinning over a gap that you definitely don’t want to come up short on during the 2024 Red Bull Heavy Metal in St. Paul, MN. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE The day before Red Bull Heavy Metal went down at the Minnesota State Capitol, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz presented a proclamation to pro snowboarder Benny Milam which declares February 10, 2024 Red Bull Heavy Metal Day in the state of Minnesota. Pictured left to right: Governor Tim “Dr. Govs” Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, and rail technician Benny Milam. Benny did what any of us would do and snapped a pic. I followed his lead. Photos: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE A handful of riders were going upside down over the gap. It came as no surprise to see Luke Winkelmann add his name to that list. Photo: Courtesy Red Bull Content Pool

ABOVE Fences, cars, pillars–spectators were climbing anything and everything that would help them get a better view of the action at each zone. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE Veda Hallen on the down rail during the second heat of Red Bull Heavy Metal 2024. The Minnesota State Capitol was a picturesque place for such a session. Photo: Courtesy Red Bull Content Pool

The proclamation goes a little something like: “Minnesota is known for its vibrant community, love of the outdoors, snow-covered winters, and adventurous spirit, and Red Bull Heavy Metal celebrates the creative culture of street snowboarding, bringing together talented riders from near and far to showcase their skills…” And so on and so forth. Governor Walz (aka “Dr. Govs”, depending on who you’re asking) presented the proclamation to hometown hero Benny Milam, a pro snowboarder and the posterchild for Heavy Metal, a snowboarding event that Red Bull launched three years ago. Red Bull Heavy Metal brings competition to the streets, amassing riders in metropolitan areas for a day of jam sessions on features that we’d normally only see in video parts. It puts street snowboarding on a main stage and allows the public to get a firsthand feel for an entirely different side of snowboarding than what is typically broadcast to the masses. The first Heavy Metal went down in Duluth, MN. Last year it was held in Detroit, MI, and this year it’s back in The North Star State.

ABOVE Sam Klein, backside 270 on. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE (Left/Top) Grace Warner, frontside 5050. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon | (Right/Bottom) Todd Richards and Chris Grenier announced the event, while Mikey LeBlanc, Mary Walsh and Tommy Gesme took on the responsibility of judging. They made a solid crew for the occasion. Photos: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE Views from the top of the jump. Benny Milam holds the electric winch utilized to gain speed on the flat in-run. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE Pat Fava, 720 tail grab. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

In addition to the warm embrace by city and state officials, Twin Cities locals prove eager to watch snowboarders do their thing at the capitol building. The event kicked off a little past 2 p.m. and will go strong through 6, sundown be damned. Thirty invite-only riders (two of whom just earned their spot to compete through a Last Chance Qualifiers that went down last night at Buck Hill) are battling it out on three different zones. The first is the jump, then comes a rail section with a down bar and a gap to down bar, and to cap it all off: a down-flat-down situated over 24 unforgiving stairs. There is $30,000 in prize money on the line, with equal opportunities for both the men and women contestants to win each individual zone, respectively, as well as take their shot at the title of Overall Champion.

ABOVE Iris Pham, frontside lipslide.

ABOVE Austin Visintainer, switch bluntslide same way 270 out. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

ABOVE Gabby Maiden, frontside 5050. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

Although several standout moments present throughout the day, the pinnacle comes during the third and final jam, when Joey Fava locks into a beautiful backside lipslide on the down-flat-down. You could feel the buzz building before he even left the lip. “Joey Fava!” event announcer Chris Grenier yells into the microphone. He’s quickly followed up by his co-announcer Todd Richards screaming, “What is going onnn?”, as Joey stays square through the kink and the second down. The crowd takes its cue and volcanically erupts in excitement.

ABOVE The lipslide heard round Minnesota. Joey Fava, you dawg. Photo: Billy Perrier

It’s a heartwarming moment for snowboarding. It’s a celebration of proper style, ice-in-his-veins badassery, and putting on under pressure. On a deeper level, it’s a celebration our counterculture in a central location that’s come through in the form of one of snowboarding’s most iconic tricks. A trick that perfectly exemplifies the notion that less can be more, and that style reigns supreme. It’s further proof that the way forward doesn’t always have to go through higher spin counts, or even a big air jump, especially when it comes to getting a big group of people together to scream their lungs out in celebration of snowboarding. Proof that street snowboarding can inspire and should have a more central focus in attracting people to this sport, and this lifestyle. If nothing else, the response to Joey’s back lip is an indication that snowboarders have always known what’s best for snowboarding, and always will. Because all snowboarders have ever needed to grow snowboarding is the platforms to prove it.

ABOVE Overall Champions Egan Wint and Luke Winkelmann. Photo: Mark Clavin / Red Bull Content Pool

Eager to see video footage from the event? Stay tuned. Red Bull Heavy Metal will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Saturday, February 25 at 9 p.m. CST.


Overall Winners

Egan Wint and Luke Winkelmann

Zone 1

Winners – Egan Wint and Austin Visintainer

Runners-Up – Jaylen Hansen and Pete Croasdale

Zone 2

Winners – Veda Hallen and Luke Winklemman

Runners-Up – Grace Warner and Benny Milam

Zone 3

Winners – Iris Pham Joey Fava

Runners-Up – Grace Warner and Luke Lund

Thank you to Luke Westnedge, Erich Dummer and the entire Red Bull crew for putting on and hosting us at Heavy Metal. It was one hell of a weekend and we look forward to the possibility of coming back to future iterations of this very special event. 

Thank you also for helping us surprise Benny Milam and photographer Stephan Jende with the cover of our newest issue, Issue 21.4, at Buck Hill, MN just prior to the Last Chance Qualifiers for this year’s Heavy Metal. Those smiles were priceless. 

ABOVE Benny Milam and Stephan Jende, the athlete on the cover of Issue 21.4 and the photographer behind the shot. Congrats to you both! Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

Preview Issue 21.4 here.


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