Image courtesy of Utah Olympic Park
I don’t know if Utahns fully appreciate what the Olympics left behind, such as the Utah Olympic Park.
It’s only 20 minutes from the mouth of Parley's Canyon, 40 from downtown Salt Lake City. One of the park’s centerpieces is the bobsled/luge/skeleton track.
There are only two officially-recognized tracks—bobsled, luge and skeleton—in the United States. One is in Lake Placid, NY and the second in Park City’s Utah Olympic Park. The Park City track is, in fact, considered one of the best in the world.
This winter, the park will be offering Olympic-type experiences to the public. This will include skeleton, a head-first ride on a sled about the size of a large serving tray.
Simple, right. Lay down, eyes forward, arms in and feet up . . . then enjoy the ride.
Well, it’s something like that. A number of years back, the park opened the track to members of the media willing to try. I did.
After a brief introduction to the sport, and a word or two on how the sled works, it was time to ride. Instructions on sendoff were simple: “Don’t move. Don’t steer.’’
The sled was placed at the women’s bobsled start. Acceleration was instant. What you think you can do and what you can actually do are worlds apart. You think you can lift your head and look down the track, but you can’t. It’s all you can do to keep the chin guard on the helmet from scraping on the ice.
G-forces push your whole body down and even though you think your head is up, the occasional scraping sound of the chin guard on the ice tells you differently. Funny what runs through your mind at that point. It’s a even blend of fear and excitement. The feeling of speed is incredible. The uncertainly is paralyzing.
If you do as instructed, the ride is fast and smooth. A companion tried to steer and hit the side of the track a couple of times and left with very sore ribs.
The ride has been modified since. The start for onetime riders is down the track a little for safety reasons. That’s not the case for more serious riders.
The “Rocket Skeleton Ride" is a onetime ride that starts four turns from the finish. Riders must be 14 or older, have no serious physical challenges, such as chronic neck problems or back or kidney problems. Speeds will reach 50 miles per hour. Cost is $50. Reservations can be made now.
For the more serious riders, there are the skeleton camps. The full program involves training four to five days a week; the part-time program is two to three days a week; and the club program is one day a week. Those registering will meet with coaches and select training days, which are Tuesdays through Saturdays. Cost is $1,795 (equipment included) for the full program, $1,395 (equipment provided) for the part-time program and $600 (equipment provided) for the club program. The fees are less those those providing their own equipment.
Sessions began Dec. 1 and run through March 16. Advanced reservations are recommended. To register visit utaholympiclegacy.com.
This is definitely something to put on the “bucket list.’’ And, best of all, it’s right here in our own back yard.
Sled: Steel construction
Weight: 43 Kilograms men, 35 women
Shoes: Must have spikes on soles
Helmet: Hard plastic with chin guard and visor
Bumpers: There for protection only
Handles: Used only for starting