Photo courtesy of Utah Olympic Park
The bobsled ride at the Utah Olympic Park is another of those thrill rides to be listed on a resume with a footnote, “Yeah, and I did that, too.’’
It’s called the “Ride of Your Life’’ and you take it in the Winter Comet Bobsled. There’s nothing else that can even compare to riding in a four-person bobsled on a sheet of ice that twists and turns for nearly one mile.
Speeds reach roughy 80 miles per hour, but this is no ride down I-15 in a luxury car.
The sled is as plain as it can possibly be—solid, but lightweight. It consists of a frame, skin, controls, four runners, a brake and four seats. Nothing more. The person in the front guides and the one in the back brakes. The two in the center lean when in a turn, but that can sometimes be difficult. The ride is by feel only.
Of course, in the Winter Comet, the driver is a professional and the three passengers are along for the ride, and what a ride it is.
It lasts less than a minute, but in the end you know you’ve been on something very different and exciting.
It is by no means a smooth or gentle ride. In fact, it’s more like being on a roller-coaster running on a warped track. And, there is more feeling to this ride than seeing. In fact, there’s not much to see, only the back of the person sitting in front of you. It’s impossible to see turns as they appear so quickly and without notice.
At 80 miles per hour the track is a blur. There are no sign posts or phone poles to judge speed, only the shaking of the sled, which telegraphs the sense of real speed. Through some of the 15 turns, riders will experience 5Gs of force, which is four to five times the force of gravity.
When the sled comes to a stop, it is not uncommon for a passenger to walk a little wobbly for the first few steps.
The track was completed in 1996. The first run was made in 1997. It was shortly after that the park began public rides and, says Connie Nelson, assistant director at the park, it has been a very popular addition to the events calendar.
The cost per ride is $200. Pricy? Consider the cost of a professional driver, and because of the physical demands on drivers, they can only make so many runs. Then figure in the price of the sled, which is costly, and the icing and manicuring of the track, which is time consuming, labor intensive and costly.
The requirements are that the riders be 16 or older and weigh at least 100 pounds. Those with chronic pain in the neck, back or kidneys are discouraged from riding. In fact, anyone with health issues or that even have a question on whether or not to ride should relegate themselves to spectating.
There is, the park staff warns, a chance for injury during the ride because of the rough nature of being bounced around.
The best advise is to listen to the staff, follow directions and hope for total recall after the ride is over.
Brake: A lever lowered to the ice
Push Handles: Retractable
Helmet: High-tech plastic with visor or goggles
Sled: Frame, front and rear axle, 2 sets of runners
Two-man sled: Maximum 390 kilograms w/crew and equipment
Four-man Sled: Maximum 630 kilograms w/crew and equipment