WORDS | JONATHAN LABEZ @JMLABEZ
PHOTOS | JEREMY STEPHENSON @SLAYCHAIN, JOHN HAYNES @JOHNHAYNESPHOTO, CHRIS GERARD @CHRISGERARD
When Bitter Cold Showdown teased us with videos on a new social account, older bladers like myself cocked our heads at the possibility of another BCSD. Our suspicions were confirmed later in the year — a final celebration to commemorate the 10 year anniversary since the last one in 2013.
I never had a chance to attend the original run in its heyday (2001-2013.) I was a poor college kid and an equally poor twenty-something, which meant far trips from the west coast were out of the question. In my late 30s, I was determined to attend a rollerblading mecca-like experience that I never thought I’d get to check off my bucket list. It also gave me a reason to talk to Founder and Organizer of BCSD Daniel Kinney and delve into why he decided to perform one last run of this iconic contest of the 2000s and early 2010s.
The simple answer is to inspire a new generation to become galvanizers in the community and build something of their own to share. The more nuanced answer Daniel discusses in this interview, along with reflecting on the history of BCSD, memorable moments, and what to expect for this final showdown.
(Catch you all on February 25th and say hello at the Be-Mag Pop up Studio!)
Bitter Cold Showdown has a reputation amongst older rollerbladers because it started at the heyday of the culture. It was up there with Hoedown in Texas and Barn Burner in Seattle as the go to events in the United States. BCSD was the longest running of the three events (2001-2013) but isn’t known to newer bladers in the scene. Tell us about how BCSD came about.
The contest itself came about inadvertently. I wanted to premiere a video I had made and have a session afterwards. IMYTA* was one of the hottest things in rollerblading at the time and represented the community taking matters into our own hands. I was encouraged to throw a contest as part of the event. There was a photo of Derek McClain posted somewhere online with the phrase ‘bitter cold’. That phrase stuck in my head and turned into Bitter Cold Showdown.
After the first event, it was like the Midwest suddenly had its own IMYTA and I did everything I could to continue growing it from there.
(* Editors note, ‘I Match Your Trick Association’ for you newer to the sport)
With a decade of reflection since your last event, what made BCSD the behemoth it was at its peak? What was the magic that drew crowds in? (For those of us who never made it during its original run, like myself.)
During the lifetime of the event, I would always claim it was a time & place that the Midwest could look forward to, Something to help us get through the winter. That’s still true.
In planning this year, something else stuck out to me. Bitter Cold Showdown is a performance more than anything else. We’ve always done everything we could to give the finalists the time & space to feed off each other. Collectively it pushes finalists further than if any of them were on the course alone. It’s not :60 runs. It’s not the tallying of scorecards nor any other cumbersome competitive format. It’s a session, the way you shred with your friends. The winner is who shines the brightest. That’s the magic of BCSD.
Winterclash is probably the closest in energy and spirit to BCSD currently running. You compared it to a sporting event while we were on the phone. What about these formats do you think brings that kind of zeal and fervor?
It’s collective. It’s analog. It’s in person. Humans are hardwired to be social. Likes, views, and shares don’t cut it. It’s a sport. We’re doing an athletic activity. It’s an interesting hybrid of concert & sport. Performance & athleticism. The energy that’s shared being there in person cannot be replicated or shared through a screen no matter how hard you try.
The energy that’s shared being there in person cannot be replicated or shared through a screen no matter how hard you try.
You also mentioned wanting to throw a final BCSD both as a final farewell akin to getting the band back together for their last tour while simultaneously encouraging a new generation of bladers see what could be possible creating/hosting their own events of this caliber. Could you expound on these thoughts?
After the last event [in 2013], I had hoped that the event secured its place in rollerblading history. After 10 years, I hoped it would have been replaced by another contest. There are other events in the US, but none that take advantage of a large indoor skate park.
Just like a band getting back together, it wouldn’t happen if people didn’t want it. This is clearly something the rollerblading community want. We wouldn’t do this if we were just being nostalgic. We’re doing this because we can add something [that’s missing today].
Unfortunately it’s not something we can do anymore. My hope is by bringing it back one more time, someone will grab the torch and start something new!
As an expansion of above said thoughts. Having coordinated so many events and gotten to see how it brings together the community, what is the importance of people in blading starting their own events in regards to the overall health of the sport?
It’s pretty simple. Social media is an incredible way to bring the entire world together, especially rollerbladers. However, there’s something intangible about getting rollerbladers together for a session. Sharing the creativity, energy, and nuance of shredding side by side with others is invaluable. This is especially true to those new to the sport.
All of that is compounded with bigger sessions and bigger events. Organizing & coordinating is a lot harder than just sharing stuff online and not many will take on that responsibility. It’s really fucking hard to bring people together.
You’ve invited and flying out past winners to take part in this last hurrah. Who do you have confirmed coming out? Who are you looking forward to seeing shred?
We offered to fly out every single past winner of the event. Most have taken us up on that offer. A few winners were unable to make it work with their schedules. We’re releasing those flying out via social media & our website. I don’t want to announce everyone just yet. My fingers are still crossed that a few more skaters may be able to make the trip at the last minute.
Tracy White and Matt Mickey are helping you organize this event. How did/do you three work in concert to make BCSD happen?
Tracy and Matt run the fucking show! I set everything up with the owner of Modern Skate Park and they make the contest happen! There’s so many others that make BCSD possible — volunteers, park staff, judges, carpenters, DJ, sponsors, food vendors. Anyone that has a hand in making it happen is critical to the success of the contest.
I hope we can replicate the same energy we had 10 years ago. If that’s the most we accomplish, I can walk away happy.
What are your top 3 memories from all the BCSDs you’ve thrown?
First one that always jumps out to me was in 2008. It was the first year we completely controlled all the finances by renting out the park. Admissions were collected by a crew of volunteers. After the event, they handed me a paper bag full of cash. I ended up counting it in a parking garage in downtown Columbus, Ohio before heading into the theater for the premiere of my video ‘Blood, Pride & True.’ After the premiere I brought Alex [Browskow] out to my car and handed him around $8,000 in cash!
Next is the very first event in 2001. The focus wasn’t entirely on the contest. I was premiering a video I made and invited all the sponsors of the video to set up for a trade show. I left the skate park to run a couple errands that took longer than expected and when I returned I was blown away. I was expecting maybe, 50 rollerbladers. Instead it was around 200 or more! The contest got out of hand in the best possible way. Ben Weis started grinding a support rail for a set of stairs leading up to the deck of the vert ramp. The owner’s wife completely lost her mind. She started screaming at him to get down off the ramp and wanted to kick him out of the park. He proceeded to 270 soul then fakie 360 kind grind the rail amid her screams.
Last is actually being rejected by ESPN. In 2010, on top of coordinating the event, I also produced, directed, & edited a television pilot featuring the contest. It was so much fucking work to create and then get it into the right hands at ESPN. To be taken seriously and receive a formal rejection was actually incredible!
What do you want people to take away from this final showdown?
That’s a good question. I’ve covered what I hope people take away from the experience. I hope we can replicate the same energy we had 10 years ago. If that’s the most we accomplish, I can walk away happy.
GET THE FULL DETAILS ON THE FINAL BITTERCOLD SHOWDOWN HERE
FOLLOW BCSD ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK
ATTEND BCSD @ MODERN SKATE PARK
FEBRUARY 25, 2023
1500 N STEPHENSON HWY
ROYAL OAK, MICHIGAN 48067