I did not laugh*, or scream. Neither did any member of our bobsled team. For 41.6 seconds, bobsleigh blades on ice, the whoosh of our speed, and an occasional rattle was our soundscape. We were thrilled into total silence as we hurtled down the fastest bobsleigh track in the world.
That fast track is at Whistler Sliding Centre, in Whistler B.C. Built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it’s where most world speed records are set, including the fastest-ever bobsleigh: 156 km/h (about 97 mph). Our top speed was 124.7 km/h (about 77 mph), plenty fast for us.
Bobsledding is a Sport, Not a Ride.
Like a rollercoaster, there are height requirements for being a bobsleigh passenger. Unlike a rollercoaster, there are other physical requirements like strength, dexterity, and an absence of certain injuries and conditions. There’s also a waiver to sign. In Whistler, there’s often a waiver to sign. After signing a waiver, each bobsledding hopeful’s height and weight is measured. This is done for a few reasons:
- Both are part of the physical requirements each person must meet.
- A team’s weight must be within a certain amount for a safe bobsledding experience. If you’re with a group and if the group weight doesn’t match what is required, those in charge may switch the team’s up.
- Height determines where you sit in the bobsleigh. The shortest member of the team sits behind the pilot, the tallest is in the back.
Travel Tip: Do read through all of the physical requirements to prevent the disappointment of not being able to participate once you arrive.
After everyone is cleared for bobsledding, it’s safety orientation time. Our presenter did not sugarcoat any element of what we were about to do. He made it clear that:
- Crashes happen on the track and explained in detail how to anticipate a crash and what to do in the event of one.
- It’s an athletic experience. Bobsledders must keep their shoulders up and strong to prevent their heads from bobbling, and must hold tight to the cords on either side within the bobsleigh.
- As bobsledders, we’d be experiencing 4g’s of force. Actual bobsleigh athletes often experience 5g’s at Whistler Sliding Centre. We would be starting lower down on the track than typical competitors, going through 10 turns instead of 16. This adjustment prevents unconditioned participants from passing out.
- Being sore afterwards is a possibility. Well, probability. My neck and shoulders were sore the next day, but it wasn’t anything a little Tylenol couldn’t help.
At the end of the presentation, we were told that if for any reason we felt it necessary to bow out, we could and would receive a full refund. To the best of my knowledge, no one in our group of about five teams took our presenter up on that offer. Everyone was a bit nervous, but no one wanted to bail.
Our Bobsled (Bobsleigh) Team
- Kori, an experienced bobsleigh pilot. If my research is right, she’s competed in the World Cup, World Championships, and has won a few Gold Medals in North America’s Cup Circuit competitions.
- Myself, the Mel half of The ChriMel Show
- My husband, the Chris half of The ChriMel Show
- Tony, my brother
After completing orientation, it’s track time. Everyone loads into a van to ride up to the top of the track where one more safety video is queued up and ready. We watched the video. Then, we were all outfitted with helmets and had them securely on before bobsled time.
We met our pilots. Someone attached and checked all of the GoPros needed to record the experience for purchase after. Final safety checks were done. Then, a team gave us a push off and down the track we flew for 41.6 seconds.
During that brief time, I learned a few things that might help you out when you give bobsledding a try:
- If you have long hair, wear it secured back into a low ponytail. It’s mentioned on their site, but in all of my excitement I neglected to follow that instruction. If you watch our video, you’ll see why this is a memorable must for me.
- Make sure your outfit and winter gear allows good leg movement. Thankfully my jacket had a zipper on the bottom half that I was able to unzip to allow my legs to move so that I could sit correctly. If it hadn’t I might’ve been leaving it behind.
- Keep your shoulders up! For real! They told us many times, but all of my Ballet Fit and workout classes have my body and brain accustomed to the opposite. I kept mine up for most of the ride, but lowered them near the end. Doing so caused my head to bobble and rattle like they said it would. At one point, I thought my helmet touched the ice (I doubt it did). I was the only member of my group to make this mistake and the only member to experience any neck pain.
We rate the Whistler Sliding Centre‘s Passenger Bobsleigh Experience Thumbupabump-Fun-And-Then-Some!
Bonus: the money we spent supports the athletes training there.
*Laughter is my fear response. You can see me scream and laugh my way through my fear in our How Scary is Ziplining Ziptrek’s Eagle Tour? Whistler B.C. video.
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