January 28, 2009

Daredevil does double flip on snowmobile

What weighs 450 pounds, flips over and over counter-clockwise and roars as it flies through the air? -- a snowmobile driven by Minnesotan Levi LaVallee.

LaVallee, 26, of Longville, performed the fete Friday at the Snowmobile Speed and Style at Winter X Games 13 on Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colo. Unfortunately, the three-time X Games gold medalist came down so hard he was thrown off his snowmobile so didn't win the Next Trick competition.

He's not giving up, though. He said he will start practicing the stunt again in March.

LaVallee, who has raced snowmobiles for 16 years, practices his daring double-back flip by driving his modified Polaris off a specially designed ramp, landing in a 10-foot-deep pit filled with foam rubber.

The stunt is obviously a crowd pleaser but LaVallee says he sees it as more of a science project.

A lot of people think it's pure craziness that goes through your head, he said. "But there is a lot of preparation involved.

When we started, the ramp wasn't high enough and the sled didn't have the power to get enough rotation. We had to come up with a game plan.

LaVallee admits there's fear involved.

It is unbelievably scary, because you're so high in the air,'' he said. When you tuck in for the second rotation, you don't know if you're going to make it. It's like you're falling out of the sky."

It's the fans' adulation that drives him, though.

For a little kid to high-five me, for someone to ask for an autograph, that is the coolest thing. That's why I do this, he said.