Good Life

The Need for Speed

Bobsledding Provides Thrills and Chills for Adrenaline Junkies

If the thought of tucking yourself tightly into a steel pod and racing down wickedly banked bends of glazed ice at five times the force of gravity makes your spine tingle, you might try a new winter pursuit: bobsledding.

Described by one Olympian as a sensation akin to climbing into a washing machine and hitting the “spin” button, there’s nothing quite like Olympic bobsledding. But you don’t have to be a gold medalist to try your hand at the sport. There are three sites in North America where you can bobsled at the actual venues that hosted past Olympic Winter Games, while reveling in some Olympic history at the same time.

Bobsledding’s like climbing into a washing machine
and hitting ‘spin.’

At the Lake Placid Olympic Bobsled Experience, in Lake Placid, NY, a professional driver and brakeman take those who dare on a rumbling ride down the actual Olympic bobsled track. The ride starts at the track’s half-mile point.After reaching exhilarating speeds, you’ll commemorate your ride with a bobsled pin, T-shirt and photos to prove you did it and survived. While you’re there, you can also rent speed skates and take a lap around the same 400-meter track where the United States achieved its “Miracle on Ice” hockey gold medal and Eric Heiden won five gold medals in speed skating. And, you can ski on Whiteface Mountain (which hosted all of the downhill events) or try bobsledding in the summertime on a track outfitted with a bobsled on wheels.

The most recent North America-based host of the Winter Games, the Whistler Olympic Park in Whistler, British Columbia, is home to the Whistler Sliding Centre, boasting the fastest ice track in the world. Visitors can ride on a bobsleigh (winter and summer) or take a skeleton ride (winter only), accelerating down part of the 1,450-meter-long ice track and experiencing gravitational force up to 4Gs. Lucky guests may even run into an Olympian, as several past Olympics athletes work at the center.

Host of the 2002 Utah Winter Games, the Utah Olympic Park in Park City offers bobsled rides on a nearly mile-long course at speeds of up to 80 mph. Nearby at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake, you can rent skates and try out the facility’s 400-meter oval that hosted the Long Track Speed Skating Competition. Bonus: The facility also offers two-hour Learn to Curl sessions for aspiring Olympians, taught by Utah Olympic Oval certified instructors.