Pint sized adventures in Park City.
As our car gently climbs the steep, winding road to Utah Olympic Park, the anticipation builds. Faster. Higher. Stronger. No three words could be better suited for the two boys eagerly peering at the Nordic jumps, bobsled-skeleton-luge track and training hills.
More than a decade ago, the world arrived at this exact spot to cheer on Nordic ski jumpers and speedy sliders—from the Jamaican Bobsled Team to hometown hero and skeleton competitor Jimmy Shea. Today, Small Fry (age 5), Peanut (age one and a half) and I are here to witness high-speed, wintery athleticism and action— the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation’s America’s Cup1.
Our plan of attack: Stroll along the track while watching the sleds rocket past; walk back down, warm up in the museum; check out the exhibits.
Projected cost for entrance to this world-class competition and hands-on, museum exhibits: $0.
The chilly air gets us moving as soon as we’re out of the car. Peanut toddles along like a mini Michelin man; then we pop him in the hiking backpack and head for the sweeping Curve 12 of the track. We hear shouts and cowbells from above, then a rumble, clatter, roar as the sled zips past to the wild cheering of two small boys.
“Again, again…” pipes up the little bundle in the backpack. “Let’s go to the start, Mommy,” shouts Small Fry as he sets off. We walk, following yellow painted footprints alongside the track. Up and over bridges and around bends.
Occasionally, we wave at a gentleman working on the track, adjusting canvases, so that the sun doesn’t destroy the work of the complex cooling system. We pause for energy boosts and a nip of hot cocoa. It’s a schlep, but somehow it doesn’t get old as shiny, brightly colored sled after sled causes us to stop, look right, and then snap our heads left. We marvel at the speed, the noise, the sheer excitement.
We reach the top just in time to witness the final four-man sled prepare to descend the 1,335-meter track at roughly 90 mph. The small crowd huddles along the fence, shouting encouragement as the athletes begin a powerful sprint, then hop into their sleek, red bobsled and hunker down for the less-than 60-second ride.
In the wake of the action, we watch the truck deliver sleds and admire the athletes and coaches milling about. Then, we disperse with the rest of the hardy spectators. The walk/trot back down the track—a bit of a hairy affair, given little legs, steep grades, icy patches, a slightly cranky kid in the backpack and a potty emergency—is a touch less enjoyable than the ascent. Next time, we will be sure to descend mid-competition for the benefit of high-speed distraction.
Once back at the base, we collect ourselves and head into the museums—one building, but two museums. In the Alf Engen Ski Museum, Small Fry hogs the pinball-like slalom exhibit, launches the “skier” on the Nordic jump time and time again (while trying to beat the day’s best jump distance) and pushes the avalanche video button, gaping at the wall of snow swallowing everything in its path. The whole museum is hands on. It’s skiing. It’s history. It’s fascinating—for all ages.
The boys climb into the bobsled for a photo, then, we mount the stairs as strains of the Olympic theme song beckon. We have entered the Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum where Small Fry poses with the Olympic torch and is instantly glued to the Olympic highlight video. We do a lap, taking in displayed medals and humongous puppets from the opening ceremonies before we call it a day. We pick up a map and purchase a bobsled temporary tattoo in the gift shop, then, head back down the hill.
Once we’re home, I tuck Peanut into his bed for an Olympic-size nap. When I enter Small Fry’s room, he has transformed into a bobsledder. With a small
ironing board as his sled and a Tupperware upside down on his head as a helmet he announces that Team U.S.A. is about to compete. “One, two, three…on course,” he declares. And so I find myself sitting behind the youngest bobsled champion driver in the world—on an ironing board, wearing a Tupperware “helmet.” Mama Mia!
1FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton America’s Cup
The 2012-2013 sliding and flying competition schedules, including World Cup, America’s Cup and Intercontinental Cup are available online at utaholympiclegacy.com or 435-658-4200. Museum entrance and event spectating are free and open to the public. Guided tours of the park are available for $10 per adult ($7 per child).
Other fee-based activities include Adventure Courses, bobsled rides (ages 16 and older) and skeleton rides (ages 14 and older).
Mama notes for a bobsled/skeleton/luge spectating adventure: Check out the schedule in advance in order to time a visit for the most action-packed moments. Wear plenty of layers. The hike up may seem balmy, but there will be cold fingers and toes on the way down. Bring snacks, water and a thermos of hot cocoa. Remember to visit the restroom, before walking all the way to the start line. Take time to check out the museums or schedule a museum-specific return trip.