Until recently, the closest I've come to Olympic bobsledding is when I helped shoulder a buddy's car out of a snow bank, jumping back in before losing momentum. Back in traffic, locked in our lane like a bobsled in a chute, I wondered how the real thing feels.
Now, I finally had the opportunity to find out. The Utah Winter Sports Park (UWSP) finished building their bobsled and luge track in January 1997. Shortly thereafter, they began a limited public rides program.
I had two tickets to ride Park City's newly-opened Olympic bobsled and luge track on February 14. I told my girlfriend, Stacy, I hoped she was in the mood for some adrenaline on Valentine's Day. She wanted a hint. "Just be ready for some slick rockin'," I told her. She pictured mountain biking Moab.
Public rides on Park City's track cost $125 per person and are limited to fewer than than 80 people per week. The rest of the time the track is used for serious athlete training. "The purpose of the park is to train Olympians," explains John Bower, director of the UWSP, "not to be Disney World."
We arrived at the track, paid our money and got shuttled to the top of the track, where we would wait for two hours for a 50-second ride. So far, it was shaping up exactly like Disney World.
Pulling Some Gs
The course is just over a mile long and has 15 turns. There's a good chance you'll reach speeds above 90 miles per hour and in some turns experience five Gs of force, the equivalent of a shuttle launch. U.S. Olympic bobsled team members serve as driver and brakeman.
"A sled goes faster and controls differently when fully loaded," explains track manager Craig Lehto as he tells passengers how to compress themselves into the sleds. "You give our bobsled team a chance to practice under fully loaded conditions."
In other words, the two public riders are nothing more than mid-sled filling. Dead weight.
The Park City course is different from all the others because the dynamics of the terrain and steepness can't be designed into every mountain. In other words, to sculpt a David you've got to start with a good piece of marble.
Stacy and I were scheduled for the last ride of the night. I didn't notice the cold night air because my adrenaline was reaching the boiling point. Pacing, I can almost hear a waiter whispering: "We've secretly replaced Steve's nervous system with Folger's Crystals." Wired!
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Written by Steve Law for CBS.com