I love when plans work out for a spontaneous adventure. My friend was already coming to town, so I just offered her the “choose your own adventure” option for her visit. Try the luge, cross country skiing or attend an ice sculpture festival. I was sooo excited that she wanted to try the luge too. The weekend we went was the first time the track had been open all winter due to lack of snow. This was a Christmas gift I’ve been impatiently waiting to use.
I had tried the wheeled luge track with my kids this past summer and I knew I wanted to come back to try the winter one.
It looked scarier and went faster.
The winter track reaches speeds up to 30mph where the summer track reaches speeds up to 23mph. This also gave me a bit of an advantage because I knew a little bit of what to expect which took the edge of my fears.
We arrived at the park a day after a pretty big snowfall.
The roads were less dicey and the trees were beautiful with their branches weighed down from heavy snow. We were still cutting it close time wise when we arrived. We immediately signed away our life, showed that we had proof of insurance and were on our way to join the clinic.
Our clinic was filled with a troop of boy scouts who had camped all weekend. Kudos to them but NO THANKS!
Our instructors showed us how to ride the sled and how to stop.
The two most important things you need to know. NEVER take your arms off of the handles by your legs and where your heads looks is the direction you are going to go. Kind of like rolling out of bed. You look the direction you want to go and push off on the opposite leg. You keep your head back the whole time and don’t squeeze both of your feet because that causes you to swerve.
We got our helmets, elbow pads and picked out a sled. We choose the beginner one for our 1st few times down. This past summer I learned that the elbow pads are essential because in all likely hood you will hit the wall a few times.
The most challenging part of the clinic is carrying your sled up the stairs.
The sleds are HEAVY and I felt pathetically winded every time we went back up. We did get some male workers who came to our rescue and carried them up a few times. A perk of being a female.
The top of the stairs has an observation bridge where you can watch people come out the shoot and visually follow them down for the 1st half of the track.
The track that is open to the public is lower than the one that the pros use. They still have to climb more stairs and they reach way higher speeds in the 50’s.
Even though I had done a fairly similar experience earlier this year I was getting a little more nervous as I got closer to my turn. All I needed was a few seconds of courage and I would be good to go. Once you are sliding down there is nothing you can do about it and it will be over soon enough. That logic has gotten me through many scary/ extreme adventures.
We were closer to the back of the line and saw the kids before us return. Which is always a good sign. I hopped on my sled, made sure I had the positioning right and I was on my way.
It is the most unnatural feeling to be sliding down a hill, knowing that you can hit the walls but cannot not push back off of them. I hit the curves fast and did bang the sides a few times. I was so grateful for those elbow pads. I had forgotten about not squeezing both of my feet because it causes you to swerve.
As I went down the steepest part of the track with a few more bangs and then followed the final curve into the crash pad. You just put your feet on the ground and sit up or you can lean back and form a bridge like formation if you can’t sit up all the way. I never seemed to master the cool way to stop which is how the Olympians do it. They grab the bars where your feet are and pull up. It just never felt natural and I kept on forgetting to pull those instead of my handles in those final seconds.
As I got off the track I found out they clocked me with the speed gun at 27mph. Not bad. Ok, now that the nerves of the first one are over, I was ready for more. I waited for my friend to come down the track. She clocked in at 26mph and loved it too.
We did several more trips down the track. Each time we got better and learned to use our shoulders and head more for steering. One of the workers described it as doing a long stomach crunch. As we progressed to our final trips down the track, we changed our sleds to intermediate and we had the worker at the top push us in an attempt to get more speed. My first time being pushed made me feel like I was going really fast so I think I overcompensated and hit the wall a few times. The next time I was more comfortable but still only got to 27mph. I got the second fastest time of the clinic 29mph on my final time down the track ironically when I wasn’t pushed.
Those last few rounds on the track I was corrupted by the boy scouts. They were putting snow on top of the crash pad so that the unsuspecting boy scout coming down the track would be hit in the face by a pile of snow.
My friend just happened to be coming down next and I told them she wouldn’t mind she’s a good sport. ha ha. The boy scouts were instructed to have no part in hers so I had to do it myself. And while I was at it, they said if I was going to put snow on there it might as well be a lot of snow. She came down and the snow timing was PERFECT.
She was a good sport about it and had her fastest time which made her happy despite a face full of snow. I knew I would be getting it for my last trip down but I didn’t care it was so funny.
Who knew that two college friends that had cliff jumped together in Jamaica, would be trying the luge together 15 years later.
I highly recommend trying this experience. It was up there with trapeze for me for a once once lifetime thrill ride.
If you want to try the luge too, check Muskegon Luge and Winter Sports Complex and take the plunge!