Sliding Downhill, Face Inches from Ice
A skeleton sled ride at the race track that hosted the 2009 International Luge Federation World Championships and the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Championships is a heart-stopping, hair-raising experience. Your face is just inches from the ice as you careen downhill reaching speeds of up to 30 to 35 mph (48–56kmph) on an ice-sheathed track that twists, turns, and terrifies during its course of eight curves. You’re wearing a helmet, to be sure, but that’s little consolation as you scream your way along this adrenaline-inducing track.
Too aggressive for you? Try the bobsled ride instead. On this you sit between a pilot who does the steering and a brakeman. The skeleton rides are offered only in the winter when the track is icy, but bobsled rides can be enjoyed year-round. A winter bobsled ride feels something akin to the sensation of riding a roller coaster—you zoom around the track’s corners at speeds of 45 to 52mph (72–84kmph). Winter rides start about halfway up the above-ground track. (It was built in 2000 and now is used for national championships.) In the summer, the bobsleds are on wheels—you’ll reach speeds of about 50 mph (81kmph)—and you’re racing down the lower part of the original track used during the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
In addition to the skeletoning and bobsledding, the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex offers plenty of other activities. In the winter, there’s a Be a Biathlete clinic, where you’ll get a cross country skiing lesson and instruction on the shooting range with a 22-caliber rifle. You can also go downhill skiing or snowboarding on Whiteface Mountain, skating on the oval used during the 1980 Olympics, or cross-country skiing.
In the summer, the Be a Biathlete clinic includes an aerobic exercise to get the sense of cross-country skiing and instruction on the shooting range. The Gold Medal Adventure includes learning how to steer a luge on wheels, and how to start a bobsled by pushing it, then jumping into it. If all this careening and curving has you a little dizzy, there are other sporty options as well. You can go mountain biking on the cross country trails at the Olympic Sports Complex. And hiking trails are abundant on the high Adirondack peaks surrounding Lake Placid. —LF
When to Go: Winter or summer, depending upon the sports you prefer.
Burlington, Vermont (50 miles/81km) or Albany, New York (135 miles/217km).