It should come as no surprise that skiers have a thing for speed. So it’s no wonder that they sign their waivers, wait in long lines, climb into five-person bobsleds manned by professional drivers and brakemen and shoot down the World Cup track at upstate New York’s Lake Placid Olympic Sports Center. Twisting, icy and fast, the steel-reinforced concrete halfpipe delivers a short but stomach-lurching thrill—and is well worth an afternoon off the slopes of nearby Whiteface.
After all, the run is the same serpentine spillway that the U.S. bobsled, skeleton and luge teams use for training and competition. It snakes down Mt. Van Hoevenberg in full view of the towering ski jumps and the ski slopes, where Phil Mahre won a silver medal in the slalom at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The village of Lake Placid is seven miles northwest, on scenic Mirror Lake. The skating and hockey venues are located here, along with shops, inns, restaurants and spas. It’s all surrounded by Adirondack State Park’s vast forests, long valleys and wind-battered high peaks, including the tallest in New York, Mt. Marcy, at 5,344 feet.
But passengers see none of this from inside the sled; it’s all a blur at speeds of up to 55 mph. The course begins at the halfway point of the World Cup run, just below a brutal turn you’ll be glad you’re avoiding. But this course is not for the faint of heart. After 11 banked turns and numerous straightaways, passengers are quite relieved when the sled grinds to stop less than a minute later.
The course is open throughout the winter, and the track is kept slick and fast, even in heavy snow. (It’s been known to shut down during extended thaws, though.) On busy winter weekends, you’ll want to make reservations Friday afternoon for a Saturday run. And keep in mind that children who don’t measure up to the four-foot height minimum will have to try again next year. It’s worth the wait.
IF YOU GO…
$75; seniors/teens $70; kids $65. Rides are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thu.–Sun.; every day during holiday weeks
– SKI MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2009