One Way Down
Of all the things to do in Lake Placid, one of the most noteworthy would have to be the bobsled ride. There are only two tracks like this in the US, and only four in North America, all of which have the special distinction of being a past Olympic host and winter Olympic village. That said, I realize how very fortunate it is to have this small town in the Northeast that has a venue like this where Olympians and World Cup athletes have a place to train and compete and a complex that offers this very unique opportunity to guests and visitors. And, all in a beautiful alpine setting in the heart of upstate NY's Adirondack Park.
Bobsledding in Lake Placid
Last Sunday I decided to go check out the bobsled ride and learn more. I headed out to the Mount VanHoevenberg Sports Complex where I planned to meet up with our photographer, Shaun. Mount VanHoevenberg is about 6 1/2 miles from downtown Lake Placid, roughly a 10 minute drive. As you enter the complex you can see the biathlon course on your right. Children and adults can try this sport, and what I think is so cool is the kids (age 12 and under) use paintball guns. Then continuing down the road, and around the corner, the cross country ski center is on your left, with a variety of groomed and maintained trails of varying lengths and difficulty. The cross-country ski center has rentals and lessons as well. And finally straight ahead the road ends at the bobsled, luge and skeleton track.
At the Track
I parked, met Shaun and we headed into the building. We were immediately greeted by the gentleman behind the counter, he happily answered all of our questions and explained everything we needed to know for the bobsled ride. I signed a wavier and he gave us a pager, telling us to wait upstairs for our shuttle ride to the top of the track. We leave his counter, pass through the venue gift shop and head up the stairs.
The upstairs room has some tables to sit at and large windows looking out at the track. It has a bit of a museum feel with a variety of bobsleds from the past. Shaun and I look around and take a few photos, then as with a few other groups of people milling around, take a seat and wait. However, we didn’t wait long. Two black SUVs soon pulled up outside and our pagers went off. We all headed out to the vehicles and grabbed a seat.
Shuttle ride up the Track
Shaun and I are seated along with a family of three. The driver takes us up the access road which runs alongside the track and has some twists and turns of its own, it even passes underneath the track at points. The drive continues moving up until we reach the passenger start area. We get out, walk up some stairs and into a small warming building where we are fitted with helmets, and for some, goggles. I noticed some passengers went without goggles while others with. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20... talking to people after their ride on the bobsled, those who did not have googles or sunglasses on wished they did. Many saying the ride was faster than they expected.
Once everyone has a helmet, groups are sent outside to the start. The rides went by fairly fast, one group at a time, one sled at a time. With the ride you get a professional driver and brakeman. The groups varied between 2-4 people who would be seated in the middle of the driver and brakeman. There is room for 3 adults max, but families with children could usually fit 4. Passengers must be 48” or taller to ride.
Keep your arms and hands inside the bobsled at all times
When your group's turn arrives you are loaded into the sled one at a time. And don’t worry, the knowledgeable track staff tells you everything you need to know including how to get in the sled, where to sit and how to hold on.
Then a voice on the loud speaker announced your name and it is echoed down the track. Deep breath… and the brakeman pushed off and the sled barreled down the track.
(Skip to 2:00 in the video to fast forward to the start of the ride)
You can feel and hear the rumble of the sled as it cruises down the track and banked around the turns compressing your body down into the sled, just like on a roller coaster ride. But unlike normal rollercoaster rides, this one was on ice, without any tracks or electronics. Just you, the sled, gravity and your crew.
Bobsled Rides at the Mount VanHoevenberg Sports Complex
The winter bobsled experience is a half-mile long down the track, reaching speeds of around 55 mph. The ride itself takes roughly 40 seconds. What I am amazed with is how quickly the turns come and go, I find it so impressive how the drivers can get the lines dialed in so they get the turn-in points and drives at the right time to get down the track.
The Finish Line
At the finish we saw the smiling faces of both the passengers and the family and friends who chose to spectate. There was a lot of excited chatter about the ride and experience.
The ride may have been over but the experience was not. Shaun and I decided not to take the ride down to the bottom waiting area and walked instead. We got to see other areas of the track while we watched and heard the sleds cruise by. At the bottom we spoke to a few more people who had taken the ride, everyone was friendly and happy to share their experience in the sled.
Ready to plan a trip to the bobrun?
Bobsled hours are generally Wednesday - Friday from 3pm to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 10am to 2pm - but make sure to check the calendar because times may vary. Rides are limited, so having reservations is suggested, especially during holidays.
Visit all the Olympic venues by purchasing an Olympic Sites Passport and save 20% on your bobsled ride. And save even more with online packages & specials when choosing your accommodations in Lake Placid.