Revelers celebrate Sochi Olympics in Colorado Springs

February 7, 2014 Updated: February 8, 2014 at 8:08 am
photo - X Games competitor Heath Frisby flies off a jump on Tejon Street during a snowmobile demonstration at the Downtown Olympic Celebration Friday, February 7, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
X Games competitor Heath Frisby flies off a jump on Tejon Street during a snowmobile demonstration at the Downtown Olympic Celebration Friday, February 7, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette  

Downtown Colorado Springs went all Sochi Friday night.

Extreme snowmobilers soared through the air, then slammed onto a large steel ramp that sat in the middle of Tejon Street.

There were rock climbers, acrobats, musicians, hot chocolate and vodka served on an ice bar.

Colorado Springs, home of the United States Olympic Committee, celebrated the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia by throwing a downtown party.

For the crowd, the high point was the snowmobile jumping.

Another hit that drew a hefty crowd was the 17-foot-wide television that broadcast the opening ceremonies and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron

Faux palm trees and Caribbean steel drum player Rick Henson from Denver were an odd juxtaposition, representing a look ahead to the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"A little bit of summer in the middle of winter," said Erica Hutchinson, associate director at the USOC, as the aromatic tones of the steel drum played in the background.

Hannah Wiggers and a contingent of U.S. Olympic team supporters braved the cold - mittens and all - carrying small USA flags.

"Go USA!" they chanted.

"I think the Olympics are great opportunity for cooperation and competition," Wiggers said. "We believe in our team and Olympic competition."

Her prediction: "I think we will win more gold medals than anyone."

Taylor Cramer, Destarte Haun and her partner, Jessica Haun, were part of the attractions, although they were there to see the snowmobile jumping, because Cramer brought her dog, Kaihn, a Great Dane the size of a Shetland pony, which drew plenty of attention.

Cramer said she had researched the jumpers, Heath Frisby and Willie Elam, and knew that Frisby had placed third in the recent Winter X-Games' 'Best Trick' competition.

Elam placed fifth.

"Mention snowmobile jumping and we're in," Jessica Haun said.

Set up for the event started at about 1 p.m., under relatively balmy 40-degrees temperatures after the recent cold snap.

Detour and event signs were posted, and the ramps for the extreme snowmobile jumping were being set up.

Businesses were awaiting what they hoped would be an onslaught of customers as bundled up spectators came downtown for the Russian and Olympic-themed party.

By about 7 p.m., Jose Muldoon's was full.

In one hour, the restaurant had seated about 200 customers, and the wait for a table was an hour.

Subway was getting a surge of business and the Cottonwood on Tejon art gallery was full.

Frisby and Elam had three performances. The one at 7:30 p.m. was packed.

But those guys are used to crowds. Frisby said he and Elam do 20-40 shows a year.

Sometimes they jump snowmobiles. Sometimes it's motorcycles, he said.

"We do stuff like this all the time," Frisby said.

He's got 40,000 social media followers, enough to populate a small town.

His jump in the Winter X-Games was an underflip. It was the first time it had been successfully completed in competition.

Here's a link to that jump.

On Friday night, it was all about backflips on a ramp and a landing zone without snow. They are able to ride because of the special skis on the front of the snowmobile.

Those snowmobiles pump out about 150 horses from their noisy, high-pitched, two-stroke engines, he said.

The baby-faced Frisby, who is 29, started jumping 15 years ago.

"I know," he said. "I don't look very old."

And while it's a pretty good living, he said, it comes with a downside.

"I've broken a lot of bones," Frisby said. "The job has its perks and it also has, well, you know what I mean."

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