Austin’s Ben Weis rises to new levels

Published 8:18 pm Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ben Weis is returning the X Games feel and will be competing in the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in Minneapolis Jan. 24-26. — Eric Johnson/

Austin resident Ben Weis has come a long way and he’s about to go even further.

After a two-year hiatus from his pro rollerblading career that saw him compete in the X Games, Weis has been on ice skates as of late and is training to compete in the Ice Cross Downhill World Championship during Red Bull Crashed Ice in St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 24-26.

Weis has yet to compete in an Ice Cross Downhill, but he was invited to the event through an email from Red Bull without a trial because of his history in related sports. Ice Cross Downhill, which is new to the U.S. and has only existed for 10 years, involves four skaters in hockey gear going through the equivalent of a 500-yard bobsled course at speeds close to 45 miles per hour.

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There are sharp turns, jumps 10 to 15 feet high, and there’s the presence of the three other skaters who are trying to get through the course first.

Ben Weis clears a chair at Riverside Arena as he prepares for the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in Minneapolis on Jan. 24-26.

“I call it craziness,” Weis said. “It’s just nuts.”

Weis will be competing against skaters from all over the world on a track that will run through St. Paul. The outdoor course begins at the Cathedral and runs through downtown St. Paul. The event is part of the Winter Carnival, which is expected to draw more than 200,000 people.

“I’m pretty competitive by nature in everything I do,” said Weis, who graduated from Austin High School in 1999. “I’m so ready for something like this to explode into and release some built up energy after being off the pro tour for a couple of years.”

Some of the competitors get to the top of an Ice Cross Downhill course, and they get a little scared and decide not to try it. Weis isn’t worried about that happening to him.

After all, he’s already dealt with rollerblading on the big hills of San Francisco back when he lived in California.

“That was scarier because there were trains, cars and people,” Weis said. “This is on an enclosed track, so I’m right in my element. If I don’t have to worry about anything except just going fast. It’s all good.”

Weis, who grew up in a home near Kauffman Park, began playing pond hockey at a young age. He was involved in basketball, baseball and cross country until he tried rollerblading at age 15.

After that day, Weis was on skates for good.

“Once I discovered that I could do whatever I wanted with wheels under my feet, I was hooked,” he said.

Weis went on to become a pro skater in 2000. He took fifth place at the 2002 X Games, which was the highest ranking for an American and he won two World Championships.

He was eventually sponsored by K2 and had a skate modeled in his name. The biggest venue Weis competed in was the X Games at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Eventually the bright lights faded when Weis served a two-year sentence for a felony drug conviction. During that time, he changed his outlook and enrolled in a voluntary, prison/military boot camp, The Challenge Incarceration Program. Now he’s been working his way back to success for the past year and a half.

“I did some things where I had to be checked on my priorities and I’d like to thank my support network of Parole Officer Troy Dieckman, my mother and my friends. It feels really good to be taken seriously again after a hiatus,” Weis said. “I’m very thankful and grateful for the opportunity. I hit a rough patch in my life, and I pulled through it and became a completely different person. It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a great support staff.”

Weis hasn’t just made strides in the world of ice skating. He’s scheduled to begin his pro rollerblading career again with a couple of events on the horizon. He has been playing basketball and pond hockey; he ran two marathons within four months, and he has got his mile run down to a time of four minutes and 50 seconds.

“At 32 years old, I’m beasting right now, and it feels great. Who knows what’s next?” Weis said. “I just can’t let it go to my head like I did in the past. I’ve got to keep myself in check since not too many people get a first chance. For me to get a second chance speaks volumes that everything I’ve done to change my life is worth it.”