J.T. Johnson and his brother Justin competed last winter in Red Bull Crashed Ice -- the obstacle course for daredevils on skates that quickly became a fan favorite in downtown St. Paul.
At the ripe age of 27, J.T. decided he wasn't going to compete again this year in the event, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday. Justin felt the same way, but that didn't stop the Johnson brothers from hatching a plan to help others.
"One of the frustrating things was that prior to the actual competition there wasn't any opportunity to get exposure to any kinds of jumps," J.T. said.
So he and Justin made their own course this year for friends who will compete wearing the logo of their action-sports product business, No Sweat. The brothers, who are from Excelsior, spent a couple of days constructing makeshift jumps and smooth ice on Lake Minnetonka to simulate at least a fraction of the activity taking place over the next three days.
They ended up with 10 to 15 competitors out on their practice course on Tuesday, J.T. said, including one all the way from St. Louis.
"It's kind of like 'Field of Dreams,'" he said. "Build it, and they will come."
Whether it gives them a leg up in the actual competition remains to be seen. The actual course is much longer and steeper, to be sure. But with 200 competitors converging on St. Paul -- Saturday's finals begin at 7 p.m., and the entire event is free -- some early practice certainly doesn't hurt.
"Everyone out here said it was really fun. The guys who were in it last year said it was helpful, and it's huge getting used to skating," J.T. said. "We're thinking of trying to [build a course] again next year and maybe up the ante a bit."