On my last day at Whistler I could have caught the bus back down to Vancouver after finishing the day on the slopes, but I decided to take a gamble, and stay up in the mountains for one more night. Whistler will be the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics sliding sports (bobsleigh, luge and skeleton), and as such, they have built a new bobsleigh track there.
I had earlier considered going to Calgary, where it is possible to ride the bobsleigh run by paying the appropriate fee, but the flight to Calgary from Whitehorse, and the bus back to Vancouver made this a very expensive proposition, and I decided to trust to fate, and hope to be able to get a ride at Whistler.
The track at Whistler is now the fastest in the world, and I had contacted the information office to see if I would be able to get a ride there. Not a chance! I also tried the Canadian bobsleigh team, no response from them, and the Jamaican team, who I had heard may be training there at the moment. I did get a reply from Winston, the Captain/Pilot of the Jamaican team – unfortunately they are training elsewhere at the moment.
So this morning I was collected from my hostel by Lorna, another website contact, who was very keen to help me to try to achieve Goal #27. We drove up to the Sliding Centre, but the place had a great big “CLOSED” sign at the entrance. Undeterred, we parked up and took a wander through the gate. There was a Visitor Centre, but not a soul around, so we took a walk up towards the track.
There we found a guy clearing some snow, and got chatting to him. He turned out to be a bobsleigh pilot, and was very helpful and friendly. “There is only skeleton practice on today unfortunately,” he told us, “but you can watch some of that if you like.” Skeleton is where the rider goes headfirst down the track on something about the size of a tea-tray, with rails on the bottom.
We stood pretty close to the finish line, and watched the exit of the sixteenth and final corner of the track. We could hear the approach of the skeleton, and as it came out of the final corner, I could not believe my eyes. It was going so fast! The rider shot past us a metre or so away, and I was staggered.
The second rider came down the run, and we watched again, open mouthed as he crashed spectacularly coming out of the corner, and slid past us at high speed, separated from his skeleton.
I had a chat to the rider as he waited to recover his tea-tray, which had slid back down the track. He was unhurt and seemed pretty casual about the whole unfortunate incident. “I won’t be making that mistake again!” he laughed. Take a look at the crash in the short video below:
So the end result was that I am no closer to achieving my goal of having a ride in a bobsleigh, and have merely managed to scare myself a bit more about the whole idea. It all looks well and good when you see it on TV, but up close the speed is incredible!
We had a quick wander aound the village of Whistler itself before heading back to Vancouver. Many thanks to Lorna, who drove down from the mountains in pretty terrible snowy conditions, and did very well to get us safely back down without incident. We saw quite a few vehicles on the road that hadn’t been so lucky, including one guy who looked like he had slid into the front of a snowplough!
It’s a shame the goal was not achieved at this time, but then where would the sense of satisfaction come from if everything was easy?