By Amber Turnau
We all remember the defining Olympic moment when skeleton athlete, Jon Montogmery, captured gold at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Even one year later, the footage of him walking down the Village Stroll chugging a jug of beer, brings a sense of pride – and delight.
Whistlerites, Vancouverites and tourists alike will now be able to channel Jon as they try the sport for themselves on the world’s fastest track.
This Wednesday, the Whistler Sliding Centre launches its Skeleton Sport Experience Program, designed to give members of the public a taste of what skeleton is all about. This exhilarating experience will get your heart pumping, as you reach speeds between 90 to 100 kilometers per hour.
After a one-hour information session, you walk about one-third of the way up the sliding track to the Maple Leaf start. Your heart is already beating wildly and your palms are sweaty.
When your name is called by the control tower, you make your way to the sled, where a track hand is waiting to usher you into position. Now you’re terrified.
Your arms and shoulders are flush against the side of the sled AKA “your best friend.” Your legs are tensed, and your head is peeking over the front. You have a death grip on the handles because if there’s one thing you remember from the training session it’s: Never Let Go!
“Ready?” the crewman asks.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” you mumble.
And with that, they let you go. At first, the speed is gradual and comfortable, but rapidly you’re picking up speed, hurdling around corners that have names like: “Shiver,” “50/50” and “Gold Rush.”
All the while you’re clutching the sled handles with a white-knuckle grip and repeating the mantra: “Don’t let go. Be a sack of potatoes.”
You feel the g-force at 2 times your body weight. At top speeds, you fly around the final corner, “Thunderbird” and hold on for dear life as you head to the uphill finish area. You lose speed and ping pong against the sides of the track before coming to a complete stop.
It is only 30 seconds, but it’s the longest 30 seconds of your life – and one of the most memorable you’ll ever experience. It’s the thrill of a lifetime.
When it’s all over, you reflect on Jon and his 144 km/h winning run. It’s humbling, but also a reminder that even Olympians have to start somewhere.
The skeleton experience costs $130 plus tax and includes two runs, a certificate of completion, a WSC pin and print outs of your results. The WSC will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 2:30pm to 6:30pm with a max of 20 people per sliding session.
* Skeleton was invented in 1884 Brits who were living in Switzerland
* Skeleton was reintroduced to the Olympics in 2002
* Switzerland’s St. Moritz track is the only track in the world still made of ice and snow
* The Whistler Sliding Centre track is made of poured concrete with 2-5cm of ice
* Ice from the WSC sliding track can fill 4 NHL rinks
* WSC has a 500ft drop from top to bottom
* A skeleton sled weighs between 30-40 kilograms
* Professional sliders can experience a g-force of up to 5 times their body weight
* Chris Gailus from Global TV was the fastest of our group with 99.29 km/h
Image: Steve Rogers