“I knew someone who was in really good shape. She couldn’t move her neck for three days after riding the bobsled,” my new acquaintance told me. I was talking with a group of Park City locals about the Comet Bobsled ride at Utah Olympic Park. For a fee, which goes to support the US Olympic Bobsled team, mere mortals can take a take a ride where previously only highly trained Olympians dared to slide.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” another person chimed in. “I know plenty of people who’ve done it, but they only did it once.” Finally, someone with first-hand experience spoke up. “I’ve done it. It’s wild. And I know a woman at Deer Valley who loved it. She did it six times before she had to give it up.”
“Thanks,” I thought to myself. “Is this encouragement or not?” I was at The Canyons in Park City, Utah for a Columbia Sportswear event. I was there with a bunch of editors to learn more about Columbia’s 2012 Fall line of winter ski and trail gear. But we were also there to ski and ride the bobsled.
My Olympic Dream
I was stoked. I’ve always wanted to ride a bobsled. I am a Winter Olympic devotee. I love all the winter sports — even curling. Riding in an Olympic bobsled, on the Olympic course, from the Olympic start is a dream come true. This would be my chance to act out a childhood dream. But after talking to these locals, I wasn’t so sure.
Then I remembered my son’s parting words to me as I left for Utah. “If you don’t ride the bobsled, there is no way you can call yourself brave.” Okay. I’m in.
I Prove That I AM Brave
So I did it. Here’s what happened: I signed up. I went to the orientation. I got my helmet. I rode the sled with three other people (one being a professional driver). I LOVED it! I couldn’t move my neck for three days (truly).
Since none of us had a Go Pro, Utah Olympic Park provides this representative helmet-cam video. This is pretty much what it looks and sounds like.
The Funnest Minute EVER!
I felt great for the first eleven hours after the ride. Riding that crazy Comet bobsled was one of the best things I’ve ever done. As I got out of the sled, I was telling everyone that if I were 15, I would sign up to train for the Olympics. The bobsled ride is that fun. It’s breathtaking, crazy, fear-inducing and so fast you can’t think. When the sled came to a stop, I was so full of adrenaline and relief that I could barely stand up. Think about it: 8/10ths of a mile in 54 seconds with a top speed over 80 miles per hour. That’s only about 5 seconds slower than an Olympic time. Woo hoo!
Reality, And Pain, Set In
Then, almost exactly 12 hours after my 54 second ride, my neck stiffened up. I think that this happened because on a big, sweeping crazy curve our sled pulled 5 Gs. That’s five times the force of gravity, or 5 times my weight sitting on my shoulders. Yikes!
Although we’d been properly briefed on how to brace ourselves and protect our necks and backs, I found myself staring at the floor of the sled. We’d been told that might happen and not to fight it, as it would be impossible to lift our heads until the sled straightened out. That was true. I think that just the effort to lift my head and rebrace myself after the curve caused the pull in my neck.
So would I do it again? I am not sure. Before my neck started hurting, I most certainly would have. Now, I am just really, really happy that I have done it at least once in my lifetime. It was worth the three days of a stiff neck. It was the closest I’ll ever come to being an Olympian.
When You Go….
If you’re in Park City and have even the slightest interest in the Winter Olympics, you must visit Utah Olympic Park. Not only can you ride the Comet Bobsled, but you can also ride the Rocket Skeleton (head first, on a sled). The bobsled ride is the only ride in the US which allows novices to start at the top and experience the entire bobsled course. The skeleton ride begins at the “tourist start” and goes through the last four curves of the course. Because of this, the skeleton is actually the more “gentle” of the two rides and has fewer age and health restrictions. Click here for more information.
Want to try out some of the skiing, instead of sliding, events? You and your family can try Nordic Ski Jumping, Moguls or Terrain Park skiing and get instruction from professional coaches at the Sunday Ski Clinics. You must have your own ski equipment and a helmet to participate, but the cost is only $39 per person, which includes access to the ski hill.
In addition to these crazy, hurl-yourself-down-a-mountain experiences, Utah Olympic Park also has two beautiful museums: The Alf Engen Ski Museum and the Eccles 2002 Olympic Museum. And, for absolutely no charge, you can watch athletes training. When we were there, we caught the US Aerial Team catching big air. Amazing.
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