Snowmama on the (Bobsled) Run
There are a lot of amazing ski resorts from which to choose. Something that sets Park City Mountain Resort apart (in addition to the amazing skiing and amenities) is nearby Utah Olympic Park (UOP). This 2002 Olympic venue hosted bobsled, skeleton, ski jumping, Nordic combined and luge, and is still used as a year-round training facility for athletes around the world.
And for my delusional Olympic aspirations.
You see, I've visited UOP's interactive Alf Engen Ski Museum, the inspiring 2002 Eccles Olympic Winter Games Museum, and have done the fascinating bus tour of the aerials, ski jump and the combined track venues.
But I had never attempted the 4-man bobsled.
"Attempted" being the operative word.
all know bobsledders go fast—upwards of 90 mph. I was equipped to deal
with speed. What I was not prepared for were the excruciating 5 Gs of
force weighing down upon me.
To put this into perspective: astronauts only feel 3 Gs during maximum launch and reentry in the Space Shuttle.
It was the first time even my Afro could not defy the forces of gravity.
I figured it would be a roller-coaster on steroids. I did not anticipate it would be like gold medalist Steve Holcomb described as a “minute-long car accident” on one of the fastest tracks in the world.
My friends Jen, Kara and I were assigned to Sled No. 9 and underwent a 30-minute orientation. The room was predominantly filled with chest-thumping, testosterone-oozing men. Our instructor Jon explained that in a 4-man bobsled, there is a pilot (driver), positions 2 and 3, and the brakeman in the back. Jon described that fourth position as the most aggressive and the one that bears the brunt of the force. For the public ride, the pilot would serve as driver while also operating the brake.
You know. Because the amateur rider in Position 4 is consumed with a minor thing like not dying.
And who would be insane enough to volunteer for said Position of Death (POD)? Me, of course. Kara and Jennifer gushed gratitude and vowed they would owe me for life. After what I endured on the Comet bobsled, a proper display of indebtedness would be naming their next child after me.
Or, in the very least, their favorite goldfish.
The sled follows 15 curves at times only 10 seconds less than the professionals. We were the final competitors. In the public rides, no one does a running start so Jen leisurely entered through the back of the sled, followed by Kara and then me in the POD.
After straddling the person in front of you, the strategy is to shrug your shoulders the entire ride to prevent your head from bobbling around. We used the handles to hold ourselves upright and hang on for dear life.
We were gently pushed off the starting line and that was the final placid moment of our ride. I’m still at a loss for how to describe the sensation of having 5 Gs of force crushing down upon you. It was painful. It was fascinating. It was thrilling. But mostly it was just excruciating.
When I watched bobsledders on TV, I always assumed their head bobbing was due to the velocity but it is more attributed to defying the forces exerted by gravity.
Upon finally coming to a stop, my first thought was, “That was the most unbelievable experience of my life,” which was followed by “WHY THE CRAP DO BOBSLEDDERS SUBMIT THEMSELVES TO THAT INSANITY?”
And then all thoughts were overcome by severe throbbing. Dazed, we posed with our cutie pie pilot Jake.
See my smile? I did not mean it.
When I woke up the next morning, I had a severe case of whiplash and could not move my neck and shoulders. The blood vessel in my right eye had burst and I looked like I got my butt kicked by the neighborhood bully.
Which, in reality, I kind of did.
His name is Bob.
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The views expressed on Snowmamas are those of the individual authors, who are independent contractors of Park City Mountain Resort, Copper Mountain Resort and Killiington Resort and may not be factually accurate. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Park City Mountain Resort, Copper Mountain Resort, Killington Resort, its owners, its management or its employees. Snowmamas' will receive compensation for their participation as an author.