Luge Yourself on a Mountainside
The news of the accidental death of a member of the Georgian luge team before the Olympics has made each competitive run down the icy track in British Columbia more difficult to watch. And yet the sight of the riders whizzing past, banking up curves, and rocketing down chutes, continues to thrill.
If fear of your own mortality and the prevalence of rainbow-colored Lycra get-ups hasn’t dampened your chronic need for speed, test your mettle with an icy joyride down one of the four combined tracks for bobsled, luge, and skeleton in the U.S.
+ Olympic Center, Lake Placid, New York: Plonk down $75 at the track built for the 1980 Winter Olympics, wedge yourself into a bobsled between a professional driver and a brakeman and shriek the half-mile length of iced track. For a mere $60, you can go it alone on a tiny skeleton sled, face-down and teeth rattling, your chin bouncing a heart-stopping few inches above the ice.
+ Olympic Park, Park City, Utah: Olympic Park charges $200 for a 4-person bobsled joyride. Skeleton riders have to be 14 or older but only pay $50 for the thrill. If you think you’ve got more than one run in you, opt for the $150 half-day introductory clinic for skeleton and for bobsled, which promise several runs per participant.
+ Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, Michigan: The third certified luge track in the country has the distinction of being home of U.S. luge champ Mark Grimmette. Its promotional video makes a persuasive, if noisy, argument for amateur pursuit of the luge. The track, open daily 10am-10pm, holds weekend workshops for novices but you can buy a single ticket to ride for $40.
+ Upper Peninsula Luge Club, Negaunee, Michigan: The fourth course, is a natural run—no elevated, refrigerated chute, but a iced-by-hand track hurtling between boards and snowbanks. This facility, up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at Lucy Hill lacks official certification but seems somehow less daunting. For one thing, the price of a ride with equipment is a very friendly $10. For another, only the bottom sixth of the track is open to the public. And, perhaps its most friendly aspect: The U.P. Luge Club runs a seasonal snack shack selling cocoa, hot dogs, and pizza for après luge mingling.
These tracks are open for winter runs through late March so make your plans to plunge down the slippery slope soon. Who knows? You just may be Olympic material, but at any rate, you can ramp up your cred at the local sledding hill.
Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.
Lake Placid photo: ORDA / Mark Kurtz