If you find yourself caught up in the Olympic spirit this fall while waiting for Vancouver to host the 2010 Winter Games, take a ride over to Lake Placid, NY where you can visit all kinds of Olympic sites, from the site of hockey’s 1980 Miracle on Ice to the ski jump facility where future talent is trained, practices and hosts events year-round. But for pure interaction, you must visit the Bobsled run.
Arriving at the facility you enter the visitor center where you can purchase your ride ticket, read exhibits about the sport’s history, and go for a virtual ride-along. And then you can walk outside and see the bobsleds come flying across the finish line and check their time on the official big digital clock. Seems a lot faster watching that blurry sled go by you in person.
You are driven up to the starting hill where there is a small shed where you go in and get a helmet and sign a release. To be honest, the farther from the visitor’s center we got the more second rate things appeared, making me more wary of all that fine print! You step back outside and wait in line for the privilege to climb into an old beat up bobsled and hand your life over to some random driver who will carry you down the RETIRED portion of the course.
This part of the course was retired from professional competition due to changes in safety standards. Not good enough for the pros, but certainly OK enough to carry innocent tourists down on a daily basis! The active course is farther up the hill and is used for competition in the winter – and for exhibitions with NASCAR drivers who have the same thoughts in their head that you did when you signed that release form – how hard can it be?
Well, after waving good-bye to the poor souls in line in front of us watching them disappear down a concrete course I got my chance to live the experience myself. I climbed on in the sled, in the correct order for weight distribution and was briefly instructed to keep all limbs inside the walls of the sled at all times. Before I had a chance to raise said limb outside of the sled to get my driver’s attention having changed my mind, off we went!
Within a matter of seconds we went from slowly dropping over the starting ridge to screaming sideways into the bank of a turn that presented a view of a concrete wall inches away from my helmeted bobbing head. The ride was jarring and herky jerky – just when you got going in a straightaway picking up smooth speed, BAM, up you went in your sled sideways to the left or right bank with a rush of chaos whizzing through your brain. The ride was chattery and bonked your body easily within the sled so holding on tight to your sled mates out of fear or self-preservation from bruising, was imperative.
And then out of the blue, it was over. The narrow confines of the walls disappeared and the white noise inside your helmet went away. Periphery of an open area with the sky, people and space came into view. And instead of a blur, actual pieces of scenery and people were discerned due to the reduction in speed as we flew by the finish line and up a ramp to a complete stop.
And so the ride was over. Nothing. Stillness. Quiet. Safety. Climbing out of the sled I felt like I had sea legs – overcome with the receding adrenaline rush and tense muscles working hard the whole ride down to keep my body centered in the sled. I checked our time, posed for the obligatory photo and went back up to the viewing platform, watching those behind us come screaming across the finish line. And I wanted to do it again!
- COST = Adults $65, Teens $60, $55 under Age 13 – add $5 to each range for winter rates after Columbus Day Weekend (get 20% off with purchase of Olympic Passport)
- DURATION = The ride itself is over in a few minutes, but allow an hour to visit the center, ride up, get ready and any waits in line.
- HOURS = 10AM – 4PM on weekends through Columbus Weekend, Wednesdays through Sundays thereafter through the winter – see website for operating times
- ENVIRONMENT = For thrill seekers. Height requirement for children is 2 feet tall.
- ACCESSIBILITY = By car. Free parking onsite.
- WEBSITE = www.orda.org
- FUN FACTS = The World Cup Bobsled & Skeleton competition will be held here the weekend before Thanksgiving and many athletes will be trying to qualify for the Winter Olympics in February.
Post, including photos, by Molly G. @ The Bumbles Blog